Owner plans to reopen Akira Museum

Khy Sovuthy / Khmer Times No Comments Share:

Oeun Yeak, owner of the Cambodian Landmine Museum commonly known as the Akira Museum, yesterday said he is planning to reopen its doors to the public next week.

Mr Yeak, who was jailed and had his museum shuttered following an explosion in August, said he has been waiting for Siem Reap provincial court to sanction the reopening.

“We have a plan to open it on Monday,” he said, noting that he will also need to ask permission from commune and district officials as well.

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“I requested the court to acquit me and my officials of criminal charges,” Mr Yeak said. “I also asked the court to allow us to resume museum operations because we need funds to help children again.”

Mr Yeak and directors Heanh Sokunthea and Oeun Yun are on bail while facing illegal weapons charges after a fire at the museum in August led to an explosion.

Following their arrests, police shuttered the museum for lacking permits to store and display unexploded ordnance.

A display of explosives at the museum. Supplied

Mr Yeak is a former Khmer Rouge child soldier who worked as a deminer and the museum’s curator. His devotion to demining and care for young victims of landmines garnered him the title CNN Hero by the cable news channel in 2010.

Mr Yeak said upon resuming operations, he will ask dozens of children who were taken away while he was in jail to return to his care.

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“I still help students – about six of them who are enrolled in university,” he said, noting that he needs $5,000 per month to pay his staff and continue to take care of children.

Yin Srang, spokesman for the court, yesterday said he does not know when Mr Yeak will be back in court.

“I just know that this case is still ongoing because the court is not done investigating the matter,” Mr Srang said.Chhuong Sopheak, Mr Yeak’s lawyer, yesterday said he will ask the court today about reopening the museum.

“I will be happy to ask the court to reopen my client’s museum,” Mr Sopheak said.

Heanh Sokunthea, director of the Akira Museum, yesterday said management wants the museum to resume operations as soon as possible due to financial needs.

Akira Museum owner Oeun Yeak. Supplied

“We hope the court will allow us to reopen our museum because we need funds to help the children,” Mr Sokunthea said, adding that in the meantime, Mr Yeak is tutoring students.

“Tourists, please help support our museum when we reopen it,” he added.

Ly Thuch, vice president of the Cambodian Mine Action Authority, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

However, during a Cross Talk discussion with Khmer Times last month, Mr Thuch said CMAA will support Akira Museum’s reopening and hinted that Mr Yeak’s charges could soon be dropped.

“We have been coordinating with the provincial court and local authorities to re-open the museum. I think that the museum will begin operating again soon,” he said. “Akira is a hero of Cambodia. He made the country known to the world. We respect and admire his work and the CMAA is obligated to guarantee that his museum operates lawfully.”

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