Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bodies greeted by ceremony

Bodies greeted by ceremony

Military police carry the coffin of a Cambodian UN peacekeeper through a guard of honour after it arrived at Phnom Penh International Airport
Military police carry the coffin of a Cambodian UN peacekeeper through a guard of honour after it arrived at Phnom Penh International Airport with another deceased peacekeeper last night. Vireak Mai

Bodies greeted by ceremony

Shrouded in flags, the bodies of two Cambodians deployed on a UN peacekeeping mission in the West African nation of Mali returned to the Kingdom last night to a crowd of nearly 100 civilians and men and women in the armed services.

An hour before the plane landed at Phnom Penh International Airport at 7:25pm, men and women dressed in fatigues waited alongside family members of Ny Nol, 32, and Meak Sereyvatana, 26, who died from suspected food poisoning on June 10.

“Both men are good friends to our armed forces . . . they were always friendly and took care of their friends and co-workers. We are very proud that they jointly served us [Cambodia] and Mali’s people under the United Nations,” said Sem Sovanny, director-general of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces, Mine and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance.

The deaths mark the first loss of Cambodian soldiers in eight years of UN peacekeeping missions, Sovanny added.

A portrait of a UN peacekeeper who died in Mali sits in front of his coffin at Phnom Penh International Airport last night
A portrait of a UN peacekeeper who died in Mali sits in front of his coffin at Phnom Penh International Airport last night. Vireak Mai

While the official cause of death has yet to be confirmed, Sovanny maintained last night that both men died of food poisoning and that authorities were “waiting for the results of the UN investigation”.

Saffron robes dotted the crowd of solemn men and women as the two wooden caskets were escorted down a red carpet. Nol’s body was transported to Kampong Thom’s Baray district and the body of Sereyvatana will be taken to Phnom Penh’s Wat Than pagoda, family members said last night.

“We requested through the government that UN officials not perform an autopsy on my son’s body. We demanded the body remain whole, because if some piece becomes lost he will not be reborn again,” said Sereyvatana’s father Meak Timchenda, 42.

“This is Cambodian culture,” affirmed his wife, Chan Pichery, 46, who last saw her son three months ago.

Ny Taing In, 28, the younger brother of Nol, reiterated his family’s request that Nol’s body be returned “untouched”.

“My family did not ask for an autopsy, but we did ask the government to intervene and keep the body of my brother whole,” Taing In said.

Last week, a UN spokesman for the UN mission, known as MINUSMA, confirmed that Cambodian authorities had requested autopsies not be performed.

As the bodies of the two men were shouldered by their fellow countrymen, and the sound of drumming grew louder, a cousin of Nol quietly clasped her hands in the rain as the skies opened.

“We are very proud,” Un Chhun Ieng, 27, said.


  • Hun Sen: Full country reopening to be decided in two weeks

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that if the Covid-19 situation remains stable for 15 consecutive days from the end of the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, Cambodia will reopen fully, albeit in the context of Covid-19 whereby people have to adjust their lives to

  • Phnom Penh governor: Show Covid-19 vaccination cards, or else

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng late on October 5 issued a directive requiring all people aged 18 and over and the parents of children aged 6-17 to produce Covid-19 vaccination cards when entering schools, markets, malls, marts, eateries and other business establishments that have been permitted

  • Cambodia seeks probe into 'false reports' on Hun Sen's alleged Cypriot passport

    Minister of Justice Koeut Rith on September 6 wrote a letter to his Cypriot counterpart Stephie Dracos requesting cooperation in investigating and providing the truth in relation to the "exaggerative and false allegations" that Prime Minister Hun Sen holds a Cypriot passport. In his letter, the

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • 'Pandora Papers' expose leaders' offshore millions

    More than a dozen heads of state and government, from Jordan to Azerbaijan, Kenya and the Czech Republic, have used offshore tax havens to hide assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a far-reaching new investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (

  • Cambodia voted ‘world’s friendliest country’ in Rough Guides reader poll

    Cambodia ranked number one among the “World’s Friendliest Countries”, according to a reader poll conducted by London-based international website “Rough Guides”. Taking submissions through Twitter and Facebook, “Rough Guides”, a well-known travel agency and publisher of guidebooks, said the Kingdom “was by far the