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Peacekeepers return home

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Cambodian peacekeepers perform a drill at a military base in Phnom Penh after returning yesterday from a mission in Sudan.

Cambodian soldiers who returned to the Kingdom yesterday after clearing mines in the Sudan for the past year expressed a deep sense of pride for their work.

“We are proud that our country has had peace for more than ten years and that we have the opportunity to help a country that is going through conflict similar to what we have been through,” 43-year-old Moth Vanthon said.

Thirty-three-year-old Luk Saray said the mission was “very important” and he was glad that his unit’s mine-clearing efforts created a safer country for the Sudanese.

The mine-clearing operation was part of the United Nations’ Mission in Sudan, said Sem Sovanny, director-general of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces, Mine and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance.

The six-year peacekeeping effort formally ended with South Sudan’s declaration of independence on July 9.

Over the last five years, Cambodia has contributed more than 500 soldiers to support the mission, Sem Sovanny explained, clearing a total of 82,000 square kilometres of mined land.

The unit returning yesterday was the fifth and final to be deployed.

Defence Minister Tea Banh congratulated the unit on a successful mission in Africa and said that the mine-clearing soldiers improved the reputation of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces around the world.

He added that the Cambodian government hopes to establish a mine-clearance centre for the Southeast Asian region in the future.

United Nations Resident Coordinator Anne Lemaistre praised Cambodia for the peaceful strides it has made in the past decade.

“It is remarkable to see the transition this country has made from being a country where UN peacekeeping forces were required, to becoming a contributor to UN peacekeeping operations.”

She called Cambodia “one of the leading countries in de-mining, particularly in offering humanitarian assistance in post-conflict countries”.

In 2009, Cambodia sent 42 soldiers to Chad and the Central African Republic to assist with a UN peacekeeping effort in the region, Sem Sovanny said.  

Next year, the Kingdom plans to deploy several hundred troops to Lebanon as part of another UN peacekeeping mission, Defence Minister Tea Banh added.

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