Cambodia cancels landmine beauty pageant

A beauty pageant in which landmine victims were to compete to win a prosthetic limb has been cancelled after the Cambodian government said it was in bad taste, organisers said on Monday.

In the “Miss Landmine Cambodia” contest, competitors from around the country were due to appear in a photo exhibition opening on Friday in Phnom Penh, followed by an internet voting campaign to select the best candidate.

“I’m not looking forward to breaking the news to the 20 candidates involved, as I know they will be very disappointed in the lack of support from Cambodian authorities,” Norwegian pageant director Morten Traavik told Agence France-Presse.

He said the exhibition will not take place after Cambodia’s Ministry of Social Affairs demanded cancellation of the contest to protect “the honour and dignity of people with disabilities”.

However, the contest, intended to raise awareness about landmines and empower the disabled, will continue with internet voting at, Traavik said.

“The event as planned is cancelled … But the project moves squarely to website voting,” he said.

“I think it is regrettable that we were not able to show this project freely in Cambodia,” he added.

The first “Miss Landmine” contest was held in Angola last year, drawing protests from rights activists who viewed it as exploitative and racist.

Cambodia remains one of the world’s most heavily mined countries, along with Afghanistan and Angola.

Hundreds of people are killed or maimed every year by the millions of landmines and other unexploded ordnance still littering the countryside after decades of conflict.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen cancelled a Miss Cambodia beauty pageant in 2006, saying he would not allow such a contest until poverty in the nation was reduced by more than half. — AFP

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