A GROUP of 21 engineers from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces departed yesterday for a one-year United Nations peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, part of a team of 219 that will be sent to perform construction and demining operations.
Keo Sarath, a technical officer who accompanied the team, said the group would help prepare the ground for the full team, which would leave for the Middle East next week.
“Our team is leaving first because we need to set up camps and receive machinery and other equipment shipped last month,” Keo Sarath said prior to yesterday’s departure.
He said the other engineering officers and deminers would leave Cambodia sometime next week, and that the mission of the Cambodian forces would be to help Lebanon build roads, bridges and buildings, as well as demining.
The demining and construction equipment that will be used by the team was shipped to Lebanon on September 20.
Due to its bloody civil war, during which millions of landmines were laid, Cambodia has developed an international reputation for the expertise of its demining teams.
Prak Sokhon, secretary of state at the Council of Ministers and chairman of the National Coordination Committee of UN Peacekeeping Operations, said the team would represent Cambodia while in the Middle East, and had the full capacity to carry out their mandate.
“Cambodia is sending troops abroad not for the purpose of war,” Prak Sokhon said at Phnom Penh International Airport prior to the team’s departure.
“Cambodia has a reputation in peacekeeping and de-mining on the international stage.”
Cambodia has sent more than 450 peacekeepers to Sudan on four missions since 2006, and additional RCAF troops have been sent to Chad and the Central African Republic.
But Prak Sokhon advised the team to be careful while on duty, as their mission in Lebanon – a country torn apart by civil war during the 1970s and 1980s – would be more difficult than the Cambodia’s previous peacekeeping missions in Sudan.
Lebanon remains heavily mined, particularly in the south of the country, because of years of conflict and Israeli occupation.