Tun Channareth, an activist and double amputee from Cambodia, accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10 on behalf of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. His speech, excerpted here, was not delivered in Oslo, because the Nobel Committee would not accommodate translation of his native Khmer.

Peace, Step by Step

Some people call me a “ landmine victim.” So I am. So are you in a different way. I carry in my body the injury caused by landmines. Forty thousand people look like me. Many, many more have lost arms or eyes or one leg. Many too still carry pieces of shrapnel…. Others carry the emotional scars, the memory of loved ones killed, the sense of being useless, no good, maimed. I speak for them all when, once again, I recall the words written in 1994 by four of us, all handicapped by landmines: “Before we were soldiers of four rival armies that laid mines that blew the legs and arms off one another. Now we live and work in the Center of the Dove. We beg the world to stop making mines. We beg the world to stop laying mines. We beg the world to give money for de-mining and development so that we can rebuild our lives, our communities, our villages and our countries again!”  …I often say my country is a handicapped country, a country where good land is planted with mines instead of rice, where women collect wood in fear, where children are afraid to run and play freely in the fields, where families are displaced from their homes. The lands of Angola, Sudan, Bosnia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, are victims of mines. They are weeping for peace, wanting the deadly weapon to be lifted from their earth. Our countries remain in terrible poverty, while greedy producers grow rich on our misery. The “mental landmines” of these producers and exporters and fearful governments make them architects of death and destruction…. Remember this: We are all landmine victims when we allow this system to continue, when we refuse to ban, to de-mine, to assist communities and people suffering. Some people worry that I am receiving the Nobel Peace Prize along with my co-campaigner, friend and our international coordinator, Jody Williams. They are afraid that the world will see only the picture of a “worthy helper” from the North with a “useless, handicapped victim” from the East. No, we are both campaigners, with different gifts–and many faults, too. My handicaps are quite visible. They can remind us of the invisible handicaps we all have…the “landmines of the heart.” These landmines inside can lead us to war, to jealousy, to cruel power over others. If we ban the landmines of the heart along with the landmines in the earth, the needs of the poor will take priority over the wants of the rich, the freedom of the dominated over the liberty of the powerful….Together we can stop a coward’s war that makes victims of us all. Some call me a landmine survivor. That is true, too. But so are you. When I first woke up to find both legs gone, I wanted to die. I tried to find ways to kill myself. Now my six beautiful children make me want to survive to build a better world…. Each day I go with a friend, Hul Bros, to visit others injured by mines or polio in Siem Reap. We travel up to forty kilometers a day on a motorbike–one leg between two of us! When I meet villagers without rice, without limbs, some without hope, my heart is touched…. Around the world there are thousands and thousands of people injured by mines who are trying to build their lives again. Sadly some are confined to beds or mats, unable to move; sadly again some are begging at marketplaces all around the world, feeling cheated and hopeless. However, the courage and resilience of so many other landmine survivors give me energy and strength. When landmine survivors from Thailand, Angola, Bosnia and Cambodia rode our cyclos from Paris to Brussels in June, we shared stories. Many of us were helping in prosthetic workshops, in wheelchair making; others were carpenters and electricians. In our worldwide networks we have sculptors, weavers, mechanics, doctors, university graduates, farmers, mothers and fathers, students and children–all wanting peace and a better future…. To survive into the future, root causes of war and displacement have to be stopped. The international treaty to ban landmines, when it is signed and implemented by all, will remove one major root. The tree of peace can blossom in its place! In that way we all become landmine survivors….Some people call me a campaign ambassador. Yes, I am an amputee ambassador. You, too, are all campaign ambassadors when you support the International Campaign in its goals: (1) a ban on landmines; (2) lands de-mined; (3) the development of people and communities victimized by mines….Peacemaking requires wisdom. Peace is a path that is chosen consciously. It is not an aimless wandering but a step-by-step journey. It means compassion without concession, and peace without bowing to injustice. Loving kindness is the only way of peace. In traditional religious places in my country we have a beautiful symbol: the Bayon. Four faces look to the east, south, north and west. One represents Metta (mercy), one Mutita (rejoicing in the good of the other), one Upekha (universality, impartiality) and one Karuna (loving kindness).The most famous Bayon, in Ankor Thom, Siem Reap, gazes out to the distant mine fields begging for peace. Another Bayon was built at the Center of the Dove, where our signature campaign [for the ban] began. Sculptors handicapped by mines built it there to honor the memory of a young Filipino campaigner who died there. His blood lies under Karuna, which faces the east where the sun rises. May tomorrow be a new dawn of peace and loving kindness for us all. < Tun Channareth >

Ethical and Moral Assessment of Landmines
Landmines are weapons, instruments of war. But, even assuming that wars could be considered legitimate to defend a population or countries, landmines could not be accepted. They remain hidden for years waiting for people to step on them, even after wars end. They act without discriminating who are the aggressors and who innocent people. They do not discriminate between allied and enemy forces, between military and civilian victims. Landmines can not be justified as means proportionate even to a legitimate defense against an aggressor. As Jef Van Gerwen has noted “ Principles such as discrimination and proportionality are generally recognized as `customary humanitarian law` within the context of international law. They can be found codified in two places: 1. The Additional Protocols of 1977 relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts, and 2. Resolution 2444 of the General Assembly of the United nations ”
(Antipersonnel Land Mines, An Ethical Reflection, p.3, Discovery, September 1995)

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