Cambodia has agreed to extend the UN peacekeeping mission of 273 members from the Royal Cambodia Armed Forces (RCAF) to landlocked, war-torn Mali. Of the 273 soldiers, 129 are from the airport maintenance and engineering unit and 144 from the explosive ordnance disposal unit, according to the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces (NPMEC).

NPMEC director-general Sem Sovanny said on December 5 that Cambodia has become one of the world’s leading countries in terms of experienced demining personnel who can do the job safely, and that it has a moral responsibility to send its experts to help other nations and ease the difficulties of people living through the terrible experience of war.

“We have contributed to the UN cause by sending peacekeeping forces abroad within the UN framework to help other countries that have fallen victim to landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW). Our team there will also be helping with building infrastructure and maintaining airports,” Sovanny said.

He continued that peacekeeping operations are part a key aspect of the UN’s values and principles, and that they continue to play an important role in addressing the difficulties of countries torn apart by armed conflict, just as they once did in Cambodia when it desperately needed assistance.

Sovanny said there are currently 801 Cambodian peacekeepers deployed on missions in South Sudan, Lebanon, Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR).

Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said the Kingdom’s dedication to providing peacekeeping forces showed that Cambodia sees it as a national responsibility to help with this humanitarian work for the cause of peace.

“It is a remarkable about-face for modern Cambodia is it was known only as a country filled with landmines that needed the help of UN peacekeeping forces not so long ago, but today we are sending peacekeeping forces abroad,” he said.

He continued that this work is good for the Kingdom’s image and also opens the door to further diplomacy, helping to expand its influence in addition to the tangible benefits achieved through peacekeeping and humanitarian missions around the world.

Between 2006 and 2022, Cambodia has deployed a total of 8,475 soldiers on peacekeeping missions under UN authority to nine countries: Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, CAR, Lebanon, Cyprus, Syria, Mali and Yemen.