Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Slain peacekeepers returned

Slain peacekeepers returned

Military officials carry the coffin of slain Cambodian peacekeeper Im Sam after his body was brought back to the Kingdom last night from Central African Republic.
Military officials carry the coffin of slain Cambodian peacekeeper Im Sam after his body was brought back to the Kingdom last night from Central African Republic. Pha Lina

Slain peacekeepers returned

The bodies of four Cambodian peacekeepers killed by a Christian militia in Central African Republic two weeks ago were repatriated to the Kingdom and honoured in an airport ceremony late last night.

Some attendees clasped tea lights in plastic cups, making for a scattered candlelight vigil for the bodies of driver Im Sam, 36, quality control assistant Seang Norin, 35, excavator driver assistant Mom Tola, 31, and medical staffer Mao Eng, 37.

The four were killed in a guerrilla attack, launched by Anti-Balaka elements in CAR, in which a Moroccan peacekeeper also lost his life. Prime Minister Hun Sen attended the ceremony at around 8pm, where the four coffins bearing the bodies were draped in Cambodian and UN flags.

A brass band played as the coffins were carried, along with photographs of the men ringed with flowers. Their bodies will be returned to their home provinces for funerals with their families.

The bodies of four UN peacekeepers are returned to the Kingdom. Photo supplied
The bodies of four UN peacekeepers are returned to the Kingdom. Photo supplied

See more images here.

For Chhay Chamroeun, the wife of Mao Eng, who served as a nurse in war-torn countries abroad, the return of her husband was bittersweet. “I feel very different from previous times. I used to come to see my husband when he returned home, and I was happy, but now I feel sad to receive his body … I feel like I am crazy,” she said.

“But to see the ceremony prepared [by the government], I am also excited because my husband is being honoured, I feel it.”

Defence Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat praised the peacekeepers, saying they had been an example of Cambodian bravery.

“We are proud of them,” he said. “They sacrificed their life, but they have a great honour, from their family, from the nation, from CAR.”

Socheat went on to double down on Hun Sen’s promise to devote more peacekeeping troops to the UN in future.

“We are not afraid, even if we sacrifice some people, we have hope for the mission,” he said. Colonel Michael Stelzig, a US senior defence official who attended the ceremony, offered his condolences.

“We are very saddened by the loss of these peacekeepers, but we are very proud of the Cambodians who continue to contribute troops to the UN in the pursuit of world peace,” he said.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Cambodian peacekeepers are seen carrying the coffin of one of their comrades killed in Central African Republic to the plane that brought them back to the Kingdom last night. Photo supplied

Herve Verhoosel, director of communications at the UN mission in CAR (Minusca), said his team was mourning the loss and thinking of their loved ones. “These peacekeepers undertake a difficult and honourable endeavour,” he said in an email.

“Their critical work opening roadways and building bridges helps to bring unity to a divided country. These gallant men lost their lives for the cause of peace.”

The killing of the peacekeepers was just one violent incident in CAR this month; the Anti-Balaka group attacked a Minusca field office and civilians last week, while on Saturday more fighting erupted, resulting in 22 deaths – the majority civilians – 36 injured and some 10,000 displaced by the violence.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM imposes nationwide Covid restrictions, curfew over Delta scare

    Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28 instructed the municipal and provincial authorities nationwide to strictly enforce Covid-19 measures including curfew for two weeks from July 29 midnight through August 12 to stem the new coronavirus Delta variant. The instruction came shortly after he issued a directive

  • Two luxury hotels latest quarantine options for inbound travellers

    The Inter-Ministerial Committee to Combat Covid-19 has designated two luxury hotels as alternative quarantine options for travellers who wish to enter Cambodia through Phnom Penh International Airport – Sokha Phnom Penh Hotel & Residence and the Courtyard by Marriott Phnom Penh. In a notice detailing guidelines issued

  • Provinces on Thai borders put in lockdown amid Delta fears

    The government has decided to place several border provinces in lockdown for two weeks in a bid to prevent the new coronavirus Delta variant spreading further into community. According a directive signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen late on July 28, the provinces include Koh Kong,

  • Visa A holders get to quarantine at Himawari Hotel

    The Ministry of Health has permitted foreign diplomats, UN and International NGO officials to undergo quarantine at Himawari Hotel in the capital in case they do not have a separate place suitable for this purpose, but the government would not be responsible for the expenses.

  • Jabs for kids bring hope for school reopenings

    Cambodia is tentatively planning to reopen schools – at least at the secondary level – when the vaccination of children aged 12-17 is completed, even though daily transmissions and deaths in other age groups remain high. Schools across the country have been suspended since March 20, one month

  • China denies Mekong hacking

    As the US and its allies joined hands last week to expose what they allege to be China’s Ministry of State Security’s malicious cyber activities around the world, the attention also turned to Cambodia with the US Department of Justice claiming that four