Ped lives in a village close to the Vietnamese border, in Nonghet district. When he was 11, he was working in his family’s field with his mother and siblings. His 13-year-old brother Oat was digging with a shovel when he struck a UXO, the explosion killing the 13-year-old boy instantly along with their sister Mai, 15, and eight-year-old brother Pui. Ped was knocked unconscious.
While Ped survived, he lost his right eye and still has shrapnel lodged in his head, which causes him pain and fever. The family can only afford to buy paracetamol to help ease Ped`s pain.
Now 23 years old, the gravity of Ped`s injuries has set in. As a result of the accident, he is physically unable to have children. Even though Ped is a strong and capable young man, he explains that he finds it “emotionally difficult” to live his life. Ped recognises that he is not like his other friends and that he would be married by now had the accident not occurred. For Ped, “joy does not seem to exist.” He is suffering from depression.
Ped`s father died last year. As the only male left in the family, Ped has no choice but to overcome his fear of UXOs on a daily basis, and support his mother and sisters by returning to the field that not only took the life of his two brothers, but stole his life as well.
These stories and images from ChildFund partner communities in Nonghet will be featured as part of Beyond the Gate, an exhibition of Student Documentary Projects in Cambodia and Laos, at Whitebox Studio, Queensland College of Art, South Bank. The exhibition runs from 23 April to 3 May.
4 April is the International Day for Mine Awareness. Read this article by former Deputy Prime Minister and ChildFund Australia envoy Tim Fischer.