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Peacekeepers set for Africa

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090408_01.jpg

Photo by:
TRACEY SHELTON 

Cambodian peacekeepers line up at a press conference during a clearing exercise Tuesday in Kampong Speu province.

CAMBODIA is set to dispatch 40 peacekeepers to Chad and the Central African Republic for one year as part of an ongoing UN security mission, Prak Sokhon, a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers, said Tuesday at a press conference at the Institute for Peacekeeping Forces, Mines and ERW (Explosive Remains of War) Clearance in Kampong Speu province.

He said they were in discussions with the UN to determine a specific departure date.

Tuesday's announcement about the deployment of 40 peacekeepers represents only  one-tenth of the 400 that Hun Sen announced last month would be deployed.

Previously, Hun Sen claimed that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon specifically asked him to send deminers and peacekeepers to Africa. But Prak Sokhon said Tuesday that Cambodia's decision was predetermined by a January agreement with the UN that necessitated that "we have our forces when the UN needs them right away".

In addition to the UN agreement, the secretary general of the International Organisation of French-speaking Nations specifically requested that Cambodia send peacekeepers to Chad and the Central African Republic as a way to raise Cambodia's profile internationally, Prak Sokhon said.

 "During a summit in Quebec, French-speaking countries wanted to promote [other] French-speaking countries like Cambodia on the international stage by [having them] send troops for peacekeeping operations," he said.

The UN has operated in Chad and the Central African Republic since 2007 to ensure the security of about 700,000 refugees, Prak Sokhon said.

He added that the Cambodian soldiers' roles in Chad and the Central African Republic were to be typical of international peacekeeping operations - running security checks and ensuring the safe movement of refugees.

Suong Khunny, deputy director general of the Institute for Peacekeeping Forces, Mines and ERW Clearance, said the institute had a total of 1,041 deminers and peacekeepers, including those still in training.  

Prak Sokhon said Cambodia was also to send 50 deminers and peacekeepers to Sudan at the end of May to replace the Cambodians who have been there since 2008. 

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