Cambodia, along with the UN in Cambodia, observed the 17th anniversary of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers on May 29. The day honours all uniformed and civilian individuals who have served and continue to serve in UN peacekeeping operations around the world, for their valuable contributions to peace.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence Tea Banh addressed a wreath-laying ceremony, held at the Training School for Multinational Peacekeeping Forces (PKO) in Kampong Speu province.

“UN Peacekeepers have made many sacrifices and contributed to easing the hardships of other countries, whether they were facing prolonged wars, landmines or natural disasters. They have done this to improve the lives of others,” he said.

He added that although Cambodia has suffered directly and indirectly from the impact of global circumstances, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks to its “love of peace and hatred of war”, the Kingdom vows to continue to take part in peacekeeping missions.

“This reflects that we do not just care for the suffering of our nation, but for the suffering of all nations around the world. Cambodia is kind and is committed to dispatching peacekeepers to join the UN’s missions in the cause of peace, happiness and humanitarian work,” he said.

He noted that in the 17 years since 2006, the Kingdom has sent thousands of peacekeepers to fulfill missions in crisis-hit countries, while also highlighting the contributions of Cambodian women peacekeepers.

“Over 15 per cent of the Cambodian peacekeeping forces that have joined UN missions are women. They are role models and encourage women and girls to demand their rights, as well as contributing to the peacekeeping process,” he said.

“We are strongly committed to ensuring that at least 25 per cent of our peacekeeping units, especially the roles of officers, chiefs of staff and observers, are women. This will ensure the long-term sustainability of our peacekeeping mission capabilities,” he added.

UN resident coordinator Joseph Scheuer told the assembled guests that since 1948, over one million men and women have joined peacekeeping operations under the UN umbrella.

Of that figure, about 4,200 peacekeepers have given their lives in the cause of peace, including 11 Cambodians.

“I am truly grateful for the Cambodian men and women who decided to join the ranks of the blue helmets. You are now part of the UN family,” he said.

US ambassador to Cambodia W Patrick Murphy took to social media to share his thoughts on the day.

“On the International Day of UN Peacekeeping, we honour the courage and sacrifice of the women and men who have served in peacekeeping operations, including those from Cambodia. Peacekeeping is a shared responsibility that benefits all nations and peoples,” he wrote.

General Sem Sovanny, first vice-president of the National Coordination Committee and director-general of the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces (NPMEC), said that between 1992 and 1993, over 15,000 personnel of the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), 3,000 police officers and 900 civilian staff from 45 countries served on a peacekeeping mission in Cambodia. A total of 82 UNTAC personnel from 27 countries died joining the mission.

He added that in the past 17 years, Cambodia has sent over 8,000 soldiers on peacekeeping missions in nine countries.

“This year, nearly 800 Cambodian blue helmets are helping to maintain peace in four nations: South Sudan, Lebanon, the Central African Republic [CAR] and Mali.

The UN in Cambodia announced that peacekeeping is more challenging and dangerous than ever.

“Armed groups and terrorists are targeting our personnel, yet the demand for peacekeepers remains high,” it said. “We appreciate Cambodia’s significant contribution to UN peacekeeping.”

UK ambassador to Cambodia Dominic Williams also shared his thoughts, following the wreath laying.

“A privilege to join the UN, defence ministry and embassies to pay respect to the families of the Cambodian peacekeepers who gave their lives to protect peace, as well as to remember and honour those who lost their lives during the UNTAC mission in Cambodia, including a British soldier,” he tweeted.