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Page last updated at 16:10 GMT, Monday, 3 August 2009 17:10 UK

Cambodia cancels landmine pageant

Sou Yeu, one of the candidates, pictured in March 2009
Sou Yeu, 35, is the candidate from the Kompong Cham region

A beauty pageant for landmine victims has been cancelled by the Cambodian government, which branded it an insult to disabled people.

Authorities said the contest, due to launch on Friday, would damage "the dignity and honour" of participants.

Twenty women were to have competed for the title of Miss Landmine and the prize of a high-tech prosthetic limb.

Norwegian organiser Morten Traavik expressed disappointment, but said the contest would go ahead on the internet.

He said the result would be announced on 31 December. The website shows photos of the contestants, with missing limbs, wearing crowns and dresses. They are aged from 18 to 48.

Between four and six million landmines are thought to have been laid in Cambodia during its three decades of civil war.

'Mockery'

Mr Traavik - who launched the first Miss Landmine pageant in Angola two years ago - said his contest was intended to raise awareness about the issue and empower those whose lives had been affected by the explosive devices.

A landmine sign, next to a mine that will be destroyed in Boeung Prolite

"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," he told AFP news agency.

Photographs of the participants were to have been shown in an exhibition in the capital, Phnom Penh.

But government spokesman Khieu Khanarith said the competition would "make a mockery of Cambodia's landmine victims".

"The government does not support this contest," he said.

Government and NGO teams are working to clear the country's landmines, but swathes of contaminated land remain in western border regions.

In 2007, more than 350 people were killed or injured in blasts from landmines or unexploded ordnance, Landmine Monitor said.



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SEE ALSO
Tackling Cambodia's landmine legacy
11 Jun 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Angola to host landmine pageant
26 Mar 08 |  Africa
Cautious optimism for landmine ban
03 Dec 07 |  Special Reports
Delicate territory: the landmine ban
02 Dec 07 |  Special Reports
Cambodia's landmine victims
11 Nov 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Cambodia
27 Apr 11 |  Country profiles

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