Cambodia is shipping 14 Mine Protected Vehicle (MPV) armoured vehicles to Mali to support its UN mission to the troubled African nation, with an official noting that the vehicles would mitigate the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and landmines, which were sometimes employed by rebel forces.

“On June 6, the Training School for Multinational Peace-Keeping Forces in Phnom Sruoch district, Kampong Speu province dispatched 14 MPV armoured vehicles and five shipping containers of materials to support the operations of the Kingdom’s explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) unit which is serving with the UN mission to the Mali,” the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces, Mines and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance (NPMEC), announced via social media.

The post quoted Ouch Borith – Minister attached to the Prime Minister and permanent secretary of state for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation – as saying that the shipment has arrived at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port and were due to depart on June 8. The vehicles and containers are expected to reach Mali in mid-August.

“Borith confirmed that the vehicles and material will augment the mission’s existing vehicles and equipment,” it added.

The post quoted General Sem Sovanny, first vice-chairman of the National Coordination Committee and NPMEC director-general, as saying that four of the vehicles were configured as ambulances, with the remaining ten serving as troop transports.

“Sovanny explained that the vehicles were necessary addition to the mission as the areas they are operating in have been subject to ambushes and IED attacks. Despite these challenging circumstances, the Cambodian blue helmets will continue to fulfil the requirements of their Mali mission,” it continued.

It noted that the Cambodian contribution to the Mali mission consisted of the EOD unit and an airport engineering detachment.

Kosal Malinda, NPMEC spokeswoman, told The Post on June 6 that the MPV vehicles and additional equipment was requested by the UN, in order to protect the Cambodian peacekeepers.

“At present 144 Cambodians are serving in Mali,” she said, adding that at present, Mali was one of the highest risk areas the Kingdom’s blue helmets are operating in, and had seen an increase in the use of IEDs.

“This is why the UN requested that we provide additional protection to our troops,” she said.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post that the shipment of heavy equipment like the MPVs was an indicator of the Kingdom’s commitment to maintaining peace in the world.

He noted that the dispatch of the EOD detachment recognises Cambodia’s experience in clearing landmines, and willingness to help those who are suffering from them.

“Cambodia plays an active role in international affairs by seeking and protecting peace, as is evidenced by its constitution and foreign policy. The capabilities of the troops and materials we sent are very suitable for the task at hand,” he said.

“The Kingdom is widely recognised for its contributions to peacekeeping,” he added.

On the same day, the French foreign ministry’s Mission de Cooperation de Defense (MCD), which focuses on international defence cooperation, is running an advanced training course for Cambodia’s “blue helmet” peacekeeping troops to make them ready for future missions.

The training, held at the Institute for Peacekeeping Forces, Mines and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance in Kampong Speu province’s Oudong district, will run from June 6-30. It aims to improve the capacity of the troops of the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces (NPMEC) to respond to the demands of their rotating missions with the UN.

The training came a day after a meeting between Christophe Roussel, French judicial police training official and Sem Sovanny, on June 5.

Sovanny expressed his gratitude to the French authorities for their invaluable cooperation with the Kingdom, especially though the training course. He also requested that the French offer similar workshops and joint drills and exercises in the future, in order to improve the effectiveness of Cambodian peacekeepers.

Peou believed that these kinds of training opportunities were important, as the higher the skills of peacekeeping forces, the better they could serve their complex missions.

“Cambodia’s participation in maintaining peace in crisis-hit countries is part of its contribution to maintaining global peace. The Kingdom has its own experience of receiving military assistance in the past, during the UNTAC era,” he said.

He added that paying close attention on training is a pre-requirement to participating in global peacekeeping missions.

“It is necessary that Cambodia further strengthen its capabilities in terms of international law, the ability to defend itself, first aid and emergency law,” he said.

Seng Vanly, a professor of international relations and regional political observer, noted that France is one of several nations that regularly provide technical assistance and training to Cambodian blue helmets.

He added that France has recently been very active in providing assistance on peacekeeping missions, along with Japan, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Belgium.