A contingent of 184 Cambodian troops departed for Lebanon yesterday where they will work as part of a UN peacekeeping mission.
The send-off ceremony for the peacekeepers was attended by Defense Minister General Tea Banh, United Nations resident coordinator to Cambodia Claire Van der Vaeren, and numerous military officials and family members of the peacekeepers.
Unit 963, the eighth military engineering unit to be deployed to Lebanon, is replacing Unit 369 and will be tasked with improving military infrastructure in this country, Gen Banh said, adding both are demining units that can remove landmines manually and with mechanical instruments.
He added this ceremony also welcomed the 184 troops from Unit 369 and another 216 personnel from Unit 459 returning home safely, both having completed their one-year missions in Lebanon and the Central Africa Republic respectively.
Gen Banh noted that the mission provided valuable opportunities for the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces to strengthen and enlarge its own capacity, as well as demonstrated Cambodia’s support for UN peacekeeping missions.
“This really reflects the significant contribution and the strong commitment of the Cambodian government,” Gen Banh said.
Ms Van der Vaeren added that this ceremony acted as a reminder of the contributions of the UN to the kingdom some 20 years ago and is a testament to the strong relationship between Cambodia and the UN.
“This ceremony reminds us that two decades ago, UN peacekeeping forces were sent here. But Cambodia now sends troops and expertise to UN peacekeeping operations in many countries to bring peace and stability to protect civilians,” she said.
Ms Van der Vaeren expressed her appreciation and encouragement for the 13 Cambodian women peacekeepers taking part in the mission.
Last January, a Cambodian peacekeeper died from malaria, while in May, four Cambodian servicemen were killed in CAR in a night-time attack by the Christian anti-Balaka rebel group in the southeast of the country.
The UN granted $70,000 in compensation to each family of the fallen officers.
General Sem Sovanny, director-general of the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces, Mine and ERW Clearance, said the Cambodian Multirole Engineering Unit 963 had both manual and mechanical demining equipment.
“This unit brings with them extra military equipment, spare parts, and medicine to add to the remaining existing equipment in the mission area, enough to last for one full year,” he said.
Cambodia first sent troops overseas on UN peacekeeping missions in 2006.
There are currently 813 peacekeepers, including 65 women deployed throughout the Middle East and Africa.
Ms Van der Vaeren pointed out that this makes Cambodia the third-largest contributor to UN peacekeeping missions of all Southeast Asian nations.
“Cambodia is one of the largest providers of peacekeeping personnel in the Asean region,” she said.