Cambodian authorities have asked the United Nations not to perform autopsies on two Cambodians who died, allegedly from food poisoning, during a UN peacekeeping mission in the West African nation of Mali last week, a spokesman for the UN mission in that country said yesterday.
“Cambodian authorities specifically requested the bodies remain untouched, so we still don’t really know what caused the two men to die,” said Olivier Salgado, spokesman for the UN mission, known as MINUSMA.
Salgado wrote later in an email that the “UN provides food to the troops under strict control; however, soldiers can also find food [in] the local market”.
“The two blue helmets died in Kidal [from what] appears to be food intoxication (for which the incriminated food is not part of the UN Ration contract and responsibility),” he wrote.
No other UN staff, troops or police were affected by the “poisoning”, he continued, adding that despite no autopsies being performed, the cause of death was still being investigated.
Last week, Sem Sovanny, director-general of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ peacekeeping unit, said preliminary probes indicated the death of the two peacekeepers, Captain Meak Sereyvatana and Lieutenant Ny Nol, was caused by “tainted food”.
Prak Sokhon, head of Cambodian-UN peacekeeping missions, told the Post that both men died of food poisoning, according to doctors in Mali.
“The families of the victims requested the bodies not be touched, which is why we asked the UN not to conduct the autopsies,” said Sokhon, adding that the bodies had not been repatriated yet because finding an airline willing to transport the bodies was difficult. “The Kingdom is responsible for sending them on this mission, so we will compensate the family and pay for the funeral and transportation.”
The UN said yesterday that the bodies are due back in the Kingdom in a week.
The two men’s families could not be reached yesterday.
Members of the RCAF operating as part of a UN peacekeeping mission were dispatched to Mali in February. The contingent – Cambodia’s first to Mali under the aegis of the UN – was charged with undertaking demining, ordnance disposal and airport maintenance.