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UN peacekeepers participate in a ceremony in February at Phnom Penh International Airport
UN peacekeepers participate in a ceremony in February at Phnom Penh International Airport before departing for Mali. Vireak Mai

Two die on UN Mali mission

Two Cambodians deployed on a UN peacekeeping mission in the West African nation of Mali died on Tuesday night in an apparent case of food poisoning, a senior official with the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces said yesterday.

Sem Sovanny, director-general of the RCAF’s National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces, Mine and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance, said the UN had yet to confirm what caused the deaths of Captain Meak Sereyvatana and Lieutenant Ny Nol, but preliminary conclusions pointed to “tainted food”.

The deaths mark the first loss of Cambodian soldiers in eight years of UN peacekeeping missions overseas, Sovanny said, adding that the government has not set a date for the repatriation of the two bodies.

“We are not sure about the cause of death because the bodies are still being examined by the United Nations’ forensics team,” he continued.

The UN resident coordinator’s office referred all questions to RCAF.

Members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces 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.

Mali was plunged into turmoil following a coup in March 2012. France launched a military operation last year that helped to oust rebels, but fighting continues.

The Kingdom has been sending peacekeeping troops abroad since 2006.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AMELIA WOODSIDE

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