Cambodian Landmine Relief: An Update
July 13, 2020
William “Bill” Morse ’71 gave up retirement in Palm Springs, California, and moved to Cambodia to clear landmines. Now the COVID-19 pandemic threatens his entire operation, which includes a school system and museum.
As of July 12, Cambodia had a total of 156 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. The Cambodian government took swift protective measures at the borders, including the requirement of a COVID-19 negative medical certificate for all foreign travelers entering Cambodia and a $3,000 deposit for testing and potential treatment services. If one or more travelers on an arriving flight or vessel tests positive for COVID-19, all passengers must quarantine for 14 days “at a location designated by Cambodian authorities,” according to the U.S. Embassy in Cambodia. If all travelers test negative, travelers have to self-isolate for 14 days at their homes or lodging.
“The tourist industry has collapsed,” said Morse, whose Landmine Museum and Relief Center has been closed since March. “And it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.”
The Cambodian Ministry of Education closed schools in March and announced this month that all schools will remain closed for the rest of the year. Though the Ministry of Education set up free online courses for students preparing for the national exams, as well as videos of classroom sessions available on TV and social media platforms, none of the schools in the Rural Schools Village Program are connected to the internet, Morse said.
Instead, teachers in the program are traveling to villages to teach small groups of kids.
Morse also started a small food distribution program in Siem Reap, a cultural center near popular temples, to help people who had relied on income from the tourism industry. In May Morse provided 30 tons of food, and another 30 tons the following month.
A documentary detailing Morse’s landmine removal efforts, Until They’re Gone, is available on Amazon Prime Video.