Cambodian peacekeepers were finally able to depart to join the UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali and the UN Mission in South Sudan on October 24. The send-off ceremony had been suspended since 2019 by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sem Sovanny, director-general of the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces (NPMEC), said at the send-off ceremony that 346 blue-helmets had gone to carry out the missions. Of the number, 273 from Airport Engineering Force unit 729 and Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit 828 were headed for Mali, and 73 from Division 171 had travelled to South Sudan.

He added that it has been over 16 years since Cambodia first dispatched troops to take part in peacekeeping missions.

“Since 2006, we have accomplished many successes in high-risk missions. This year, the UN showed their confidence in us by assigning another of our explosive ordnance disposal units to the Central African Republic [CAR],” he said.

Prak Sokhonn, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and also chairman of the National Coordination Committee for UN Peacekeeping Operations, spoke at the ceremony, reminding those present that October 24 was the day when the UN commemorated the formal establishment of the UN on October 24, 1945.

“We will continue to pursue a bold stance in sending our troops on missions to countries in crisis. At the request of the UN, Cambodia has prioritised sending female troops, whose contribution to peacekeeping is invaluable,” he said.

All officers, non-commissioned officers and enlisted soldiers who join these missions will become members of the UN and will set an example for the entire world by seeking peace, he added.

“Your dedication and sacrifices for the cause of saving the people of other nations, and your readiness to share your experience with at risk countries, are commendable and encouraging,” he said.

UN representative to Cambodia Sardar Umar Alam, who attended the ceremony, said that Mali and South Sudan are far from home for the Cambodian soldiers, and their missions would test their skills and abilities.

He added that the missions were an excellent opportunity to bring honour to their units and the Kingdom alike, through their sacrifices for peace, security and the friendship of the international community.

“Your departure today is more than a long journey. You are entering a multinational community which is united in seeking peace and a better future for all,” he said.

According to the vision for Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, approved by all UN member states including Cambodia, sustainable development is not possible without peace. Peacekeeping operations, sustainable development and human rights go hand in hand and are crucial elements to making the world a better place,” added Umar Alam.

According to the NPMEC, 8,302 Cambodian troops, 580 of them female, have completed 11 missions in nine countries to date. Past assignments include operations in Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, CAR, Lebanon, Mali, Syria, Cyprus and Yemen. Cambodia troops are currently deployed in South Sudan, Lebanon, CAR and Mali.