Cambodia sent 216 peacekeepers on a humanitarian mission to Lebanon on February 5 under the auspices of the UN, while the soldiers who had just finished their one-year mission returned home on the same day.

According to the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces (NPMEC), the new rotation of 216 soldiers is from Engineering Brigade 827. Later that same day, Engineering Brigade 829 returned after completing a successful one-year mission and bringing “honour” to the nation.

The farewell and welcome home events for the “blue helmets” were presided over by NPMEC director-general Sem Sovanny at Phnom Penh International Airport.

“The mission to Lebanon is in its 13th year, and Engineering Brigade 829 is the 12th to participate in a fruitful mission with proud results.

“The troops maintained cleanliness, good discipline and strictly adhered to the UN standards of conduct, putting safety first until success without any members being injured or sacrificed without reason,” he said.

Sovanny reminded the 216 peacekeepers to continue to stay united as a whole and keep safety first during their mission.

He urged them to take turns with their duties, learn from their experiences and lessons from others and to correct any mistakes that had been made in order to achieve success for the nation, their families and themselves.

“Remember that you are not only representing the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and NPMEC, but also the whole of Cambodia. Therefore, all activities, both inside and outside working hours, must uphold national honour,” he said.

Sovanny said peacekeeping operations had played an important role in the rehabilitation and development of countries that were torn apart by armed conflicts, through the participation of different specialised units from nations under the UN umbrella.

He applauded the Cambodian troops who have just returned from their one-year mission in parts of Lebanon where temperatures reached below zero degrees Celsius at night sometimes, in mountainous areas that he said were facing hardship due to economic crises and decades of border disputes with Israel.

Since 2006, the Kingdom has sent over 8,000 peacekeepers to carry out humanitarian missions in nine countries: Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Central African Republic (CAR), Lebanon, Cyprus, Syria, Mali and Yemen.

More than 800 Cambodian peacekeepers are on missions in South Sudan, Lebanon, Mali and CAR currently.

According to the NPMEC, Cambodia ranks second in ASEAN and 12th overall among all countries globally that send peacekeepers to other nations under the UN umbrella.

Kin Phea, director of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post on February 6 that the continued programme to send peacekeepers abroad is very important as part of Cambodia’s contribution to the UN peacekeeping and humanitarian missions as the Kingdom used to be vulnerable after decades of war and was riddled with landmines.

“Thus, Cambodia’s contribution presently will be to continue expanding its role in this area so that our peacekeeping mission activities can become more and more advanced, which will give our soldiers valuable experiences in the field and help them master new skills,” he said.