A Cambodian peacekeeper has been killed in the Central African Republic (CAR), reportedly by an armed guerrilla group, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced this morning.
The premier took a pause during a speech on Tuesday to offer his condolences to the family of the peacekeeper – identified as Im Sam in an official report – a driver from Siem Reap who was killed at 8pm last night during a guerrilla attack.
Four other Cambodian blue helmets were caught up in the attack; one suffered injuries and three are now missing.
“My question is if those three missing fled from the attack or have been kidnapped,” Hun Sen said.
The resource-rich CAR has been ravaged by violent atrocities, with the two main armed groups being the Muslim Seleka and the largely Christian and animist Anti-Balaka.
Phal Samorn, deputy director-general of Cambodia’s National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces (NPMEC), confirmed the premier’s comments were true, but said details, such as the name of the guerrilla group responsible, were still unknown.
Earlier in the day, Cambodian ambassador to South Korea Long Dimanche alleged in a Facebook post that Sam had been beheaded, but later deleted the post. Samorn, however, said he could not confirm that Sam had been beheaded based on the report he had received.
Samorn, citing the report he received from the base, said the attack was launched to demand the release of prisoners.
He said the unarmed Cambodian peacekeepers were about 100 kilometres away from the UN base in the CAR with a contingent of armed Moroccan peacekeepers.
Twelve Cambodians were returning from work – which includes engineering and mine clearance duties – when they were attacked by the unknown group.
Samorn added that one Moroccan man was missing and five had suffered serious or minor injuries. UN helicopters are now circling in an attempt to locate the missing peacekeepers.
“I request the UN, which is responsible for the peacekeepers, to pay more attention to the lives of the Cambodian and Moroccan people who are missing now,” Hun Sen said.
A total of 216 Cambodian peacekeepers were stationed in the CAR.