Cambodia on Friday said it would continue to send military personnel on United Nations peacekeeping missions, but it will seek to better arm the troops for entering areas of operation.
“Our leader has pledged our commitment to contribute more troops to join peacekeeping operations,” Defense Minister Tea Banh told VOA Khmer in an exclusive interview in New York. “Despite internal difficulties, we will make the contribution as much as we can.”
Military officials met at the Peacekeeping Ministerial Conference at the UN Headquarters in New York on Friday to discuss the capacity of peacekeeping forces around the world.
“Across the decades, our peacekeeping operations have helped countries from Liberia and Sierra Leone to Timor Leste and Cambodia, transition from conflict to peace,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “But, as conflicts become more complex and high-risk, our operations must keep pace”.
The secretary-general also highlighted some “critical” gaps in UN missions that must be bridged, such as availability of armed utility helicopters, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance units, quick reaction forces, and airborne medical evacuation teams, according to the UN website.
Cambodia began deploying peacekeeping forces under UN control since 2006, sending more than 5,000 troops specializing in demining and engineering to work in the Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, Lebanon, and Mali.
Cambodian forces were attacked on several occasions during their missions, causing four deaths in CAR in 2017. Another attack in Mali in early 2018 did not cause any injuries to Cambodian forces but destroyed their camps.
“Now we’re giving additional capacity for self-defense to our troops,” said Tea Banh. “We want to make sure they can be effective with all the gear and equipment we give them to ensure their success in the mission.”
A report released in January by policy think tank Future Forum concluded that the deployment of the peacekeepers helps Cambodia increase its soft power and promote itself as a “model society” that has evolved from wars and conflicts into a peaceful and secure country.
“Directing national resources to support the improvement of the international security environment via participation in [peacekeeping is imperative for Cambodia to project an image of itself as a responsible country in the region and in the world,” wrote Chan Sam Art, the researcher. “Cambodia’s engagement with the United Nations and ASEAN on the maintenance of regional and global peace and security has been an important component in the development of Cambodia’s soft power.”