Prime Minister Hun Sen has committed to continuing humanitarian activities through Cambodian peacekeepers despite challenges posed by the coronavirus outbreak.
His commitment was made in a letter to António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations on June 24, a copy of which was obtained yesterday.
Mr Guterres on June 12, sent a letter to Mr Hun Sen to extend his “heartfelt condolences” over the death of Major General Sar Savy, a senior officer from the Cambodian Support Element of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), on May 29 due to COVID-19 (C-19), calling the incident a “terrible loss”.
“I wish to assure you that the United Nations, in cooperation with the governments of host countries, is determined to further strengthen efforts to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our peacekeeping missions and to prevent its spread,” he said.
Mr Guterres also noted that while taking measures to ensure the safety and security of peacekeepers and other staff, the missions would strive to continue to deliver on their mandates.
“In this context, I wish to reiterate my deepest gratitude to your country for its strong support to the United Nations and peacekeeping operations in particular. Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration,” he added.
In his response, Mr Hun Sen said Maj Gen Savy’s “courage and noble devotion” will be remembered with utmost respect and recognition on the national and international scale.
“While standing ready to work closely with the United Nations to take further acute actions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Royal Government of Cambodia reiterates its commitment to continuing humanitarian activities as well as building and sustaining peace throughout the world,” Mr Hun Sen said in his letter to Mr Guterres.
Cambodia’s National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance (NPMEC) said that since April, 10 Cambodian blue helmets in Mali had tested positive for COVID-19, including Maj Gen Savy.
They worked for Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit stationed in Timbuktu town.
Defence Ministry spokesman General Chhum Sucheat said recently the other nine Cambodian peacekeepers who received medical treatment in Mali had recovered and were discharged from the hospital.
He said currently, Cambodia has 787 blue helmets, including 76 female soldiers, who are on peacekeeping missions under the United Nations umbrella, including in Lebanon, Sudan, South Sudan, Mali and the Central African Republic.
Gen Sucheat said apart from Mali, no Cambodian peacekeepers in the other four countries have contracted the virus.
“Although the world is facing the COVID-19 outbreak, the Royal Government of Cambodia and the Ministry of Defence have not been reluctant to send forces to carry out humanitarian work through the UN abroad,” he said. “The Ministry of Defence, through the NPMEC, provides regular guidance and reminds all forces to remain vigilant and follow the guidelines of the Ministry of Health and the government in the fight against COVID-19.”