When the Cambodian government banned Miss Landmine Cambodia, a beauty pageant planned for the summer of 2009, anti-land mine campaigner Song Kosal felt let down.
“It was a missed opportunity to raise the issue of land mine reform and encourage women and amputees not to remain silent, to not hide behind their fears,” Kosal told the Taipei Times by telephone from the office of the Cambodia Campaign to Ban Landmines & Cluster Munitions, where she works as a spokeswoman.
The activist will give a lecture tomorrow titled Global Citizen: What Can You Do to Help Eliminate Landmines Worldwide? as part of an event held by the Lung Yingtai Cultural Foundation (龍應台文化基金會) and the Eden Social Welfare Foundation (伊甸社會福利基金會), which is the local representative for the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines.
Kosal, 27, knows something about land mines and the disappointments of its survivors. While working in a rice field on the Thailand-Cambodia border, she stepped on one, which resulted in the amputation of her right leg. She was 6 years old.
“After I became disabled, a land mine survivor, I felt sad and disappointed with myself,” she said.
But Kosal overcame her disability and began campaigning on behalf of land mine survivors at the age of 12. She has since traveled the world as an international ambassador for the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines, calling on governments to sign the Mine Ban Treaty, the international agreement that prohibits the use of antipersonnel land mines. A total of 156 countries have done so since its inception in 1997.
Taiwan has been unable to sign the pact because it is not a UN member, said Chang Shin-hui (張心蕙), a specialist at the Eden Foundation’s International and Cross-Strait Affairs Center.
What: Global Citizen: What Can You Do to Help Eliminate Landmines Worldwide?
When: Tomorrow from 2pm to 4pm
Where: Yue-han Hall (月涵堂), 110 Jinhua St, Taipei City (台北市金華街110號)
Details: The lecture will be conducted in English only. Admission is free, but those attending must
pre-register online at www.civictaipei.org or by calling (02) 3322-4907
“That’s a challenge Taiwan faces in all treaties. We are in a very weird position. But that doesn’t mean that Taiwan cannot play an active role in the international community,” Chang said in a phone interview.
Chang said the government has passed legislation “in the spirit of the Mine Ban Treaty,” which calls for the complete removal of land mines in Taiwan by 2013. However, the legislation, known as the Landmine Regulation Act, falls short of the treaty’s total ban because it permits the stockpiling and the use of land mines in war, she said.
“The military refuses to disclose how many are stockpiled for the sake of national security,” Chang said.
Still, Chang said that the government will achieve its goal of removing all previously lain land mines, which were mostly deployed in Kinmen and Matsu during the 1950s.
“There is very good progress in terms of de-mining — already 45 percent on the offshore islands,” Chang said.
Though the number of buried land mines throughout the world is impossible to estimate, International Campaign to Ban Land Mines’ 2010 Landmine Monitor reported that 35 states not party to the Mine Ban Treaty have stockpiled more than 160,000,000 antipersonnel land mines. In 2007, the Landmine Monitor identified 473,000 land mine survivors worldwide.
Chang said Kosal is an ideal spokewoman to raise awareness about land mines because she’s young, dynamic and has firsthand experience as a land mine survivor.
“We have land mine survivors in Taiwan who are in their 60s and 70s and live in Kinmen and Matsu. But their stories are not heard,” Chang said.