It’s been more than 35 years since the Khmer Rouge regime collapsed. During its brief rule of Cambodia – less than four years – an estimated two million people died; hundreds of thousands were also killed during the civil war that preceded and followed Pol Pot’s brutal 1975-79 regime.
Cambodia and its people still suffer from the legacy of that dark time in a variety of ways, including the deadly and hidden threat of abandoned land mines, which still kill or injure more than 100 people every year.
Since the early 1990s, the government’s Cambodian Mine Action Centre (CMAC) has trained deminers and cleared landmines from large swathes of the country. CMAC’s responsibilities took a significant new direction two years ago when the organization, working in conjunction with U.S. non-profit the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation, decided to establish Cambodia’s first elite salvage diving unit. Their job – to tackle the underwater menace from those years of conflict, the unknown number of bombs and unexploded ordnance (UXO) that litter in Cambodia’s waterways and rivers.
The elite group of nine divers have been trained not only to dive and recover explosives, but – given the near-zero visibility that is common in the silt-heavy waters of the Mekong – had to learn to do so blind in depths of up to 30 meters and against strong currents. These are hostile conditions and require extraordinary dexterity, as well as physical and mental strength.
The photographic exhibition ‘Dark Water: Cambodia’s UXO Divers’ by Charles Fox explores and illustrates the world of the divers who are trying to rid Cambodia’s waterways of this legacy. Fox has created a series of documentary photographs showing the men undergoing the training process.
Charles Fox is a British born photographer currently based in Cambodia and has been working in Asia since 2005. He has a degree in Photojournalism from the London College of Communications. Charles is interested in the legacy of conflict and colonialism and how the ruling actions of the past affect today.
FREE at the Kerry Packer Civic Gallery: Dark Water: Cambodia’s UXO Divers
Open from 7-30 October
Open weekdays 9am -5pm, late Thursdays until 7pm
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