The Blue Sign

By: Elizabeth Wilson

The temple rubble is visible at the end of the long dirt road.

Situated in a sprawling jungle, the huge stones from over eight thousand years ago are covered by vegetation. This crumbling, overgrown rubble of Beng Mealea, is the type of image that normally comes to mind when one thinks of Cambodia.

We stood in a group, taking in our surroundings. Although the monstrous temple was within my sight, the large metal sign on my left distracted me.

It was a big blue sign with white writing in multiple languages. Underneath the Khmer script, I read “Minefield Cleared by CMAC.”

I was about to explore a temple that was used as a minefield. It had only been cleared in 2007.

A picture of the blue sign remained in my mind the entire time I climbed over the rubble. My body was tense with apprehension.

Luckily we had a small Khmer woman following us around, guiding us through the temple. She had an Absara Authority patch on her khaki shirt that identified her as part of the security that takes care of the temple.

She knew exactly what to point out and where to climb.

As we explored, I learned that in 1992, 600 Cambodians were killed or maimed every month by landmines. CMAC, Cambodian Mine Action Centre was created to rid the country of these landmines, clearing the land for Internally Displaced People.

The land that I was walking on had experienced both wealth and war, just as the country of Cambodia has. The landmines that had been scattered throughout the ruins of the majestic Hindu temple depict this extreme dichotomy.

Although the ruins of Beng Mealea moved me, it was the blue sign that got me thinking.

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