Thailand: Decades after hostilities have ceased in neighboring countries, innocent mine survivors living in Eastern Thailand still bear the scars of war
People continue to suffer the consequences of weapon contamination long after a conflict ends as unexploded ordnance (UXO) kill and injure unsuspecting victims.
We may think that the process of rebuilding communities happens right after hostilities end but just as physical wounds leave scars, people affected by armed conflict and violence cannot simply go back to how things were.
Even after 40 years, over 100 people in Trat and Chanthaburi provinces, the two south-eastern corners of Thailand, still bear the scars of the conflict and violence in neighbouring countries that they had no involvement in.
Mr. Ampon tells the story of how one moment in time changed his life forever when he stepped on a landmine while working in the hilly fields behind his makeshift house. When he regained consciousness after surgery he realized his leg had been amputated. Fortunately, Mr. Ampon is able to turn to local and national authorities for assistance and support.
In other countries, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), an independent, neutral and impartial organization, works closely with national authorities to help mine survivors, such as in Cambodia. However, challenges still exist and most mine survivors will have to draw on extraordinary will and determination to overcome them.
"I was devastated when I regained consciousness only to realize my lower leg had to be amputated, but I didn't have time to worry about it. I was hungry and my mother was hungry. I knew if I didn't brace up, we'd starve to death," says Mr. Ampon.
Listening to Mr. Ampon's recollections of life before and after stepping on a UXO, we catch a glimpse of a man with extraordinary determination.
"Just because I am physically challenged doesn't mean I will let myself depend on others for everything"
A UXO survivor shows us around his makeshift home at the foot of a mountain separating Thailand and Cambodia, which is littered with explosive remnants of war
"Life is a series of fights. They never end, they just get more complicated. There is no point in feeling sad, because sadness can't feed you," says Mr Ampon. While there has been a delay in getting prosthetics from the government's victims' assistance project, he has planted a vegetable garden in his backyard to grow his own food.
Without the prosthetic leg, Mr. Ampon has to crawl to get around his house and the garden but that does not deter him. "Just because I am physically challenged doesn't mean I will let myself depend on others for everything," he says.
A communication officer with the ICRC's regional delegation in Bangkok, looks out towards the border between Thailand and Cambodia after hearing the stories of the quietly buried yet lingering dangers of war.
Mr. Ampon shows that many mine survivors around the world have to rely on their own remarkable strength and determination to overcome the challenges they face. Organizations like the ICRC aim to support them along their journey in a meaningful sustainable manner, respecting their independence and resilience.