Between 1970 and 1990, the prevalence of landmines in Cambodia led to the highest percentage of physically disabled inhabitants in the world. The Cambodian conflict was the first war in history in which landmines claimed more victims – combatants and noncombatants – than any other weapon.
In September 1991, PHR and Asia Watch (now Human Rights Watch) researched and exposed the devastating medical, social, and psychological impact of landmines in our report “Landmines in Cambodia: The Coward’s War,” which revealed that some 35,000 Cambodians were amputees as a result of landmine injuries. The report the first time called for a comprehensive ban on the indiscriminate and deadly weapons.
Following the report, PHR and five other organizations established the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), which led to the passage of the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997. Later that year, ICBL and its coordinator, Jody Williams, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As one of the founding members of the campaign and a member of its Steering Committee, PHR shared in the prize.
In 1995, PHR returned to Cambodia to investigate the state of its prisons. A medical team led by PHR studied the health conditions in 13 of Cambodia’s 24 prisons. Its findings revealed decaying buildings, limited food, inadequate access to medical care, and overcrowding, all of which contributed to the spread of infectious disease and prisoner-on-prisoner violence. The team’s findings can be found in Health Conditions in Cambodia’s Prisons. Immediately following the release of the report, Cambodia’s King Sihanouk announced the closing of the most over-crowded and inhumane of Phnom Penh’s prisons.