ROYAL Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) troops will soon start learning English and other foreign languages in order to expand the army’s international military cooperation, high-ranking military officials said.
Speaking at a workshop in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, Minister of Defence Tea Banh reviewed Cambodia’s roster of international military commitments, adding that languages should be given their due.
“We need to pay more attention to the problem of languages in defence work, because there are about 100 military meetings and workshops at the international level,” Tea Banh told several hundred RCAF soldiers wearing green UN peacekeeper berets.
“I have tried to learn English, but it is impossible because of my age – even my Vietnamese language is almost forgotten,”
Over the past five years the RCAF has expanded its international military involvement, he said, with Cambodian deminers participating in a number of UN peacekeeping missions in Sudan, Chad and the Central African Republic.
Tea Banh said that although bilateral cooperation with other militaries is already strong, RCAF soldiers will be required to learn languages such as English, Chinese, Japanese and French in the next five years in order to further facilitate links.
Other officials say Cambodia is gearing up to expand its presence in multinational peacekeeping forces.
Prak Sokhon, chairman of the National Coordination Committee of UN Peacekeeping Operations, said that the RCAF has gained a international reputation for its skilled demining teams and is keen to expand its missions abroad.
He said that the government plans to send a military attache to New York in order to strengthen its ability to lobby the UN for a greater role in peacekeeping operations.
“UN peacekeeping is becoming a competitive business, which means there are strong challenges to our participation,” he said. “Our deminers could be sent to Lebanon if we were able to lobby the UN.”
To date, around 560 Cambodian deminers, peacekeepers and engineers have participated in missions in war-torn parts of Africa, said Sem Sovanny, director general of the Institute for Peacekeeping Forces, Mines and ERW (explosive remnants of war) Clearance.
He added that around 1,000 more soldiers were training in preparation for future UN peacekeeping operations, of whom the next group will leave the country for Chad in May. He said he did not know how many troops will take part.
Prak Sokhon said that over the past five years, the government had spent US$4.1 million on military equipment for Cambodian demining teams, and had received $4.8 million back from the UN up to October.