‘You did not go home, but inhabited this land. You set feet here, but stayed in my heart. Though you have gone, we can’t live without you and the towering monument quietly tells the preciousness of peace . . .”
Every year when the Qing Ming Festival – an early April day for Chinese to commemorate the dead – approaches, many familiar faces of the past will always appear in front of our eyes. Like others who passed away, the martyrs of two peacekeepers and one expert and their stories again come to us from the depth of our memory.
In 1959, 31-year-old Luo Jinchun, a Chinese expert, came to Cambodia to help with the geological survey. He successfully found rich iron and quartz mines for the first time, and helped locate underground water sources, which was warmly welcomed by local residents. On March 10, 1960, in a geological exploration he died from a detonator explosion, and has since then rested permanently in the Khmer land.
In 1992, bearing the trust of the motherland and the international community, about 800 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officers and soldiers came to Cambodia to carry out UN peacekeeping missions. At that time, the conflicts in Cambodia had not ended, and nearly all civil facilities were devastated and awaited to be repaired or rebuilt. Chinese peacekeepers were not afraid of hardships and dangers, and managed to overcome all difficulties, building bridges, roads and barracks.
They were the earliest participants in Cambodia’s homeland reconstruction and they also witnessed the development of China-Cambodia friendship. On the evening of May 21, 1993, the Chinese peacekeeping force camp was suddenly attacked by unidentified militants. Two soldiers, Chen Zhiguo and Yu Shili, died heroically and gave their young lives to the cause of peace in Cambodia.
The heroes have passed away, but their spirit lives forever. The “Thank Peace” message advocated by Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen means not only to thank the creators of peace, but also to thank the guardians of peace, including the Chinese peacekeeper and expert heroes who contributed their strength and even lives to the peaceful development of Cambodia. We have felt from these martyrs the throbbing of souls, the running of blood and the undertaking of responsibilities.
Martyr Luo is not alone because the motherland has never forgotten him, and the Cambodian people will always remember him. The then-Chinese foreign minister, Marshal Chen Yi, and former Cambodian deputy prime minister General Nhiek Tioulong personally wrote the inscription for his monument, and thousands of Cambodians in tears attended his funeral. The two peacekeepers, Chen and Yu, were fearless because the PLA soldiers followed orders strictly and went forward bravely. The two peacekeepers could be gratified because at the foot of their monument – the National Road 6 they built with so much sweat – is now full of traffic and prosperity.
Martyrs should be relieved with a smile because their descendants have taken over the torch of their career. The two monuments of the peacekeepers’ and expert’s cemeteries have become monuments of China-Cambodia friendship, standing tall in the hearts of the two peoples. Every year, especially on the Qing Ming Festival, many Cambodian military and political leaders, Chinese embassy staff, local people, and Chinese nationals in Cambodia will visit the monuments and express their respect and grief.
In recent years, under the joint guidance of the two countries’ leaders, China and Cambodia together went through thick and thin and has made remarkable achievements in the building of a community of shared future and cooperation in political, economic and military affairs. The friendship between the two countries and the two militaries has been further refined and upgraded in their joint fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
China has become Cambodia’s largest trading partner, investor and source of tourists. China has assisted Cambodia in the construction of more than 3,000km of roads and bridges. Actually China’s participation in UN peacekeeping started in Cambodia and over the past 30 years China has sent more than 40,000 troops to over 20 countries and regions to carry out peacekeeping missions.
China is the largest troop contributor among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and is, among all nations, the second-largest finance contributor to UN peacekeeping operations. China is a great advocate of peaceful development concept and a key force in maintaining world peace and development.
We shed tears on the Qing Ming Festival, and the half-mast tells the stories of the martyrs. As the day of remembrance is coming, a mourning poem written by Cambodian Chinese 61 years ago for martyr Luo Jinchun sounds up again:
“On the beautiful land of Cambodia, you sweat a lot. And with your boiling blood, you irrigate the flowers of Cambodia-China friendship ... We will weave countless patriotic hearts into a large wreath, as the offering to your grave. We will put flowers of Cambodia-China friendship on your grave.”
Zhu Shuaifei is deputy attache of the Chinese embassy