TBENG MEANCHAY-While the Pakistani Battalion was packing up to depart from this Khmer
Rouge-surrounded provincial capital, with lumbering Mi-26's gracefully lifting away
15 tons of gear thrice daily to Battambang, the chief medical officer of the Azmiri
Kashmir Battalion proudly noted on Aug. 16 that one of their most important successes
during UNTAC was keeping the troops healthy.
"Our greatest accomplishment was beating malaria," said Maj. Badshah Zaidi.
"We only had seven cases compared to 2,657 for the rest of UNTAC."
The battalion, originally based in Samrong in Siem Reap Province and since January
in Tbeng Meanchey in Preah Vihear, was based in what is recognized as one of the
world's worst areas for drug-resistant malaria. The local population is widely infected
with the deadly disease.
Zaidi credits British Gen. Slim of the Burma campaign during World War II with one
of the reasons the Pakistanis were so successful in avoiding malaria. It was Slim
who initiated taking anti-malaria medicine as a function of daily military drill.
"The troops are lined up every evening and the tablets are thrown in their mouths
and then forced to drink it down," said Zaidi. "We don't even trust it
in their hands."
Soldiers were also under orders to wear long sleeve shirts and long pants at all
times, which contrasts readily with other UNTAC personnel in Preah Vihear who can
be seen working in shorts and t-shirts.
The battalion's medical team also undertook extensive fogging programs wherever soldiers
were based, cleared camps of any vegetation or standing water and strictly controlled
the disposal of garbage.
Zaidi also points to other health successes for the Pakistanis. While UNTAC has recorded
4,450 cases of sexually transmitted diseases, the Pakistanis have recorded none.
He says that, being Muslims, battalion members are prohibited both by military law
and religion from womanizing.
"There were 300 Vietnamese prostitutes waiting for us when we arrived in Tbeng
Meanchey," says Zaidi. "When they found out we were Muslims they packed
up and left."
"It all comes down to one word," said Zaidi, reflecting contentedly on
what he says is the reason for the health of the Pakistanis, "Discipline!"