When the International Campaign to Ban Landmines won the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1997, the global media devoted much attention to the campaign's director, Jody Williams, who became the peace Laureate. Much less attention was given to the co-recipient of the prize, Cambodian ex-soldier and landmine survivor Tun Channareth. The Road from Kampuchea tells his dramatic story.
"Reth" is a former resistance fighter, a fierce soldier who stepped on a mine while patrolling with his troops near the Thai border. As he lay bleeding in the minefield, his first instinct was to kill himself with his own AK-47. Fortunately, a friend disarmed him and carried him to the nearest hospital.
During the course of his long recovery, he became a disability outreach worker. He traveled to hospitals and remote villages to deliver custom-made wheelchairs to landmine survivors. He then became a spokesperson for the anti-landmine campaign, traveling to Japan and Europe to promote the cause. Eventually, he made it to Canada, where the first international treaty to ban landmines was signed by 125 countries and to Oslo, where he received the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.
Reth's story is told against the rich cultural legacy of Cambodia, a country both graced with the temples of Angkar and marred by the horrific legacy of the Khmer Rouge. Young dancers perform the dance of the landmines, a reinterpretation of traditional Khmer movements into a composition memorializing this contemporary tragedy. Prach Chhuon, one of Cambodia's most famous folk musicians, shares the music of his heritage. And thanks to people like Reth, Cambodians dare to believe that, in spite of everything they have experienced, the future will be better than the past.