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Clearing out danger in Cambodia

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A path to redemption
  • As a child soldier in Cambodia, Aki Ra planted land mines for the Khmer Rouge regime
  • Decades later he is clearing those same mines and trying to make his country safer
  • There is still much work to be done, he says: "People are being injured all the time"
  • Khmer Rouge
  • Siem Reap
  • Cambodia

Editor's note: CNN Heroes received more than 10,000 nominations from 100 countries, and a Blue Ribbon Panel selected the Top 10 CNN Heroes for the year. Voting for the CNN Hero of the Year continues through November 18 (6 a.m. ET) at The winner will be announced at "CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute," which airs Thanksgiving night, November 25, at 8 ET.

(CNN) -- Aki Ra is helping to make his native Cambodia safer by clearing land mines -- many of which he planted years ago as a child soldier.

Since 1993, he and his Cambodian Self Help Demining organization have cleared about 50,000 mines and unexploded weapons.

Below are his thoughts on being chosen as a Top 10 CNN Hero.

Q: Where were you when you got the call that you'd been selected as a Top 10 CNN Hero?

Aki Ra: When I got the call, I had spent the day working in Siem Reap. I spend much of the week in the minefield with our team. I was very excited to be recognized for the work our [organization] does. I'm very happy and very surprised. I didn't expect this. I have never been chosen by anyone for anything. I am very grateful to be recognized by CNN.

Q: What do you hope it will mean for you to be a Top 10 CNN Hero?

Aki Ra: I hope that it will bring more help to Cambodian Self Help Demining and Cambodia to clear the many land mines and unexploded ordinance that is left in our country.

Q: What you want people to know most about your work?

Aki Ra: Our organization is run by Khmer people, working for our country. We want people to know that the land mine problem in Cambodia has not gone away. People are being injured all the time, and we are working to make Cambodia safe.