Cambodia has rotated peacekeepers to carry out humanitarian missions under the UN umbrella in Lebanon.
The farewell ceremony for the 184 Cambodian ‘Blue Helmet’ troops – 29 of whom are women – of the Multidisciplinary Engineering Brigade 829 was held in the presence of National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces director-general Sem Sovanny at Phnom Penh International Airport on February 2.
Sovanny said the mission in Lebanon was now in its 12th year and that Brigade 829 has gained the trust of the UN for its contribution to keeping the peace in countries in conflict.
“Today is another proud day for our motherland. Our heroic warriors have trained hard for a long time to earn the confidence of the UN and the head of the government to apply their skills directly,” he was quoted as saying in a press release on February 2.
He reminded all the forces to continue to remain united as one for the common good, to be mindful of their safety – especially during the performance of their duties, to learn from the experience and to correct any mistakes made in order to achieve success for the mission, the nation, their families and themselves.
“Over the past 10 years, the Cambodian forces in Lebanon have been safe and secure, but sadly, the 11th Regiment, which will be the repatriation brigade, sustained a landmine accident that caused great remorse to the unit and the nation. This is a lesson to us all to be vigilant and adhere to the UN standard operating procedures,” Sovanny added.
Peacekeeping operations are a global activity that plays an important role – through joint operations with many nations – to help countries affected by war, said the press release.
The Kingdom is a willing participant in restoring peace, stability and development in line with UN principles to build a path to a world of peace and progress, it said.
Kosal Malinda, spokeswoman for the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces, Mines and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance (NPMEC), told The Post on 2 February that the 184 peacekeepers are rotating with another group, because the mission to Lebanon has to be permanently manned. The departing unit will carry out the same tasks as the previous forces.
“In the context of Covid-19, it is necessary for the forces to carry out their duties under the new normal, such as maintaining social distancing. The number of personal engaged in this mission may need to be reduced. For example, there will be more online meetings than ever before,” she said.
Since 2006, Cambodia has sent more than 7,000 peacekeepers on UN humanitarian missions in nine countries – Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Lebanon, Syria, Mali, the Central African Republic (CAR), Cyprus and Yemen.
Currently, Cambodia has nearly 800 troops, 10 per cent of them women, carrying out peacekeeping missions under the UN umbrella in Lebanon, Sudan, South Sudan, Mali and CAR.
Ro Vannak, co-founder of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy, told The Post on February 2 that the missions brought pride to the Cambodian people and improved the Kingdom’s image on the international stage.
In the past, Cambodia was a country that the UN came to help because it was a geopolitical victim of the Cold War, which brought about bloody conflicts that led to economic, social and human destruction, he said.
“The dispatch of forces enhances Cambodia’s soft power, as does the rich cultural heritage of the Khmer people and the thousands of temples that enhance its prestige,” Vannak said.
Heng Kimkong, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland and a visiting senior research fellow at the Cambodia Development Centre, told The Post on February 2 that it is wonderful that Cambodia has transformed itself from a war-torn country in need of UN support to one that sends peacebuilders to support UN missions.
“Cambodia needs to work collaboratively with the UN to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all of its peacekeepers,” he said.