Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Distinguished National and International Guests,
Chief of Army, Deputy Chief of Army and All Military Officers,
Today, I am delighted truly to attend the closing of the “Stocktaking Conference on the Achievement of Cambodia’s 10-Years Peacekeeping Mission of the United Nations (2006-2016)”, which is auspiciously held here at the moment.
Taking this opportunity, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to thank Mrs. Claire Van Der Vaeren, Coordinator of the UN in Cambodia and special Representative of H.E Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, for the meaningful remarks made this morning. At the same time, I would like to express my profound appreciation to all the agencies of the UN for the good cooperation provided to the Cambodia’s armed forces that have joined the peacekeeping operation for the past 10 years.
I would also like to congratulate Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Generals, Colonels, Lieutenants and Military Officers, especially the blue-cap Special Force, for having achieved such great success in international missions in the cause of peace and humanitarian, on top of our country’s causes: “Nation, Religion, King”. Also, I would like to take this opportunity to send my regards to 888 Cambodian militants who are on peacekeeping mission abroad under the UN framework.
In fact, 10 years ago I sent off demining forces to complete the mission in Sudan under the UN umbrella. That was the first mission of Cambodia’s blue-cap special force, and was a historical event showing Cambodian contribution to peacekeeping operation of the UN. The decision to send Cambodia’s demining force abroad was in response to the request of His Excellency Secretary General of the UN, and it took place when Cambodia was still left with land mines and unexploded ordnance causing deaths and injuries to around 800 people each year. That decision was, thus, an important decision that I personally took and am responsible for Cambodian people and history. As a member of the United Nations, a member of Ottawa Convention, especially as a country experienced chronic and deteriorating wars, Cambodia must make greater efforts to send our demining troop to help other countries facing and suffering from mines and unexploded ordnance left by war as Cambodia in the past. This decision reflects that Cambodia not only thinks of our people’s harmony but also contributes to other nations’ harmony in the world. It is a strong commitment of Cambodia to show solidarity and contribute to the international efforts for global peace, security and humanitarians.
Our engagement with the UN peacekeeping mission has progressed remarkably, increasing from 135 demining officials sent to Sudan in 2006 and to 3,557 personnel who are fulfilling peacekeeping mission under the UN umbrella. Our armed forces have been servicing in Africa, the Middle East and Europe, namely in Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Central African Republic, Lebanon, Syria, Mali and Cyprus Island in the name of an independent, sovereign country and a member of the UN. At the same time, our forces have expanded their skills from demining to fulfill duties as military polices, engineers, doctors, terrorist’s ordnance clearance as well as senior military observers and commanders. Successful expansion and fulfillment of these various skills reflect advanced capacity and potential of our troop to be integrated in the multi-national system of the UN.
Today, Cambodia becomes a leading country in clearing mines and unexploded ordnance, which is internationally acknowledged and admired under either local or UN activities. Obviously, the UN has asked for Cambodia’s engineering forces at Lebanon to demine in Cyprus and members of ASEAN Community supported Cambodia to host ASEAN Regional Mine Action Centre (ARMAC), which shows the acknowledgement of Cambodia’s achievement. This is our great prize, which allows Cambodia’s flag to stand with flags of other countries, sending their troops to the same UN mission.
With this spirit, I would like to express my sincere appreciation for leaders and officials of the Ministry of National Defense, National Committee, National Institution that co-led forces supporting coordination honed, organize training equipment, equipped and sent troops to participate in peacekeeping missions of the United Nations with success within the last 10 years, starting from zero and has achieved tremendous achievement for the nation.
This is such an outstanding pride, if looking back for more than 20 years at the time that Cambodia has accepted the United Nation’s troops in order to preserve peacekeeping operation in this gloomy territory that filled with conflict and confrontation. Now, Cambodia has become the country that send their troops to participate in the peacekeeping operation of the United Nations in some countries in the world that conflict has become their hot issue.
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Correct and Proud Decisions
Please allow me to remind something. In my political career, I have made decisions on numerous major issues from taking action to topple the Khmer Rouge forces until those relating to war or peace in the country. Decision to accept the UN peacekeeping operation to Cambodia was not a simple one at the time that I was head of negotiators and Prime Minister of a Government in conflict with other Cambodian factions. There were urgent demands from other political factions and international community for presence of the UN operation in Cambodia. I had a discussion with my colleagues in those difficult negotiation times and decided that we must (do it to) create confidence for every involved factions … in searching for peace and national reconciliation.
… Later, we had to take up another decision. It was not a simple one and more importantly at the time when Cambodia was in its internally difficult situation. We decided to deploy our troops to foreign countries (for UN peacekeeping operation missions). In the past, many Cambodians also fought on foreign soil. I met one of them and he passed away some fifteen years already. He told me he fought in Algeria and Morocco as a French soldier. Cambodia was a French colony then. This time, we send our troops abroad for peacekeeping operation as a sovereign state and a country member of the United Nations in response to the call of the Secretary General of the United Nations for de-mining troops.
Cambodia Deploys Its Troops under UN Operations Only
On 1 March, I made the decision. I did not leave this role and responsibility be carried out by any Minister or Deputy Prime Minister, the President of the National Assembly or the Senate. It was clear that the Prime Minister was responsible before national history. I am so proud. I said at that time “to jump into the water to learn to swim,” by which I meant we must send our troops abroad to know what it was like. Before we made that decision, a country approached me and probed if Cambodia could send a small number of its troops (for operation abroad). I denied because it was unconstitutional.
Cambodia can send its troops to foreign soil only within the framework of the UN operations. The fact that we deployed our troops abroad, Cambodia has so far enjoyed reputation from our troops’ behaviors. You may have remembered my recommendations to the first company of 135 troops. Cambodia had experiences with some troops of the UN operation in Cambodia, who even involved in smuggling. We have collated those experiences and enriched our troops with moral before taking up peacekeeping missions abroad. What we had to take out as experiment was the fact that there were hybrids and HIV/AIDS in Cambodia under UNTAC time. It was true. Based on these lessons, we have made it a rule that all Cambodian blue-beret troops must have their blood checked to make sure they are HIV/AIDS free before joining the missions […]
Ambition to Expand Cambodian Peacekeeping Troops
… Let me tell you that I have a very big ambition. I just told you about my intention to expand the deployment of Cambodian peacekeeping troops in foreign countries. Cambodia is now in the rapid UN troop mobilization system. We will take into consideration our participation in operations in other countries should there be request from the United Nations. Friends helped us. We also helped them in return. Though Cambodia is short of money, Cambodia is not poor in heart. Meeting two French Prime Ministers visiting Cambodia – Jean-Marc Ayrault and Francois Fillon, I asked them for cooperation in the UN system. Meeting with President Francois Hollande in the 2014 Asia-Europe Summit in Italy, and in my recent visit to France, I also asked him for increase of information sharing in this regard. I also did the same work with a number of countries who also send their troops for peacekeeping missions abroad in order to make sure that our troops have access to credible information to avoid accidents as well as to strengthen cooperation where necessary. I also did the same with Prime Minister of India, where in South Sudan, our troops stationed not far from each other. Our troops had a unit that produced clean water and we shared it with the Indian troops.
Should Cambodia become an economically rich country, Cambodia would provide assistance of 0.7% of its GDP to foreign countries. Cambodia is not there yet. Cambodia is still poor and is able only to deploy its troops for UN peacekeeping missions to eliminate accident caused by mines and UXOs or to provide medical services. However, gradually, we are ready to send some assistance to African countries, who already made some requests to me already. I am thinking about it and consider actions.
I thank the Cambodian people for supporting my foreign policy, especially the decision to deploy the Cambodian forces for peacekeeping operation, which has put Cambodia in equal status and footing with other countries deploying troops in the UN peacekeeping operations. Cambodia continues with this engagement from small to a bigger scale. It is my wish that Mrs. Claire Van Der Vaeren report to the UN Secretary General about Cambodia’s readiness in responding to requests of the United Nations, whenever there is demand for troops.
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Besides, I would like to thank my foreign friends such as Australia, India, United States, France, Japan, China, and Thailand who have supported the trainings, skill and language trainings, and some materials in order to raise Cambodian forces standard to the United Nations level. I would like to particularly thank the United States Army Pacific that support multinational military exercise within the Global Peace Operation Initiative (GPOI)‘s framework, which is beneficial to other countries to study, experience, and strengthen the capacity in order to preserve the peacekeeping operation within the region and the world.
Meanwhile, we have already acknowledged that peacekeeping mission of the United Nations is a very difficult and dangerous mission. Our forces were often vulnerable to be the victims of the ambush attack shelling and explosive misstep by arm conflict etc. Our forces have faced the natural disasters and life-threatening diseases that have taken 4 lives and some were injured. Taking this opportunity, I would like to honor the souls of the Chief of Army and Deputy Chief of Army, who sacrificed their lives for peace and humanity.
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Internal Peace Allows Cambodia to Engage in Peacekeeping Operations
Frankly speaking, should Cambodia be without peace, it would not be able to send troops to foreign countries. We have seen replay of win-win policy that reunited our territory for the first time in a history of about 500 years. We have been able to transform Cambodia from a country divided into many controls to a united one, which is rare in its history.
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In fact, Cambodia has the capacity to send our army to participate in military of the United Nations mission because the country has maintained its peaceful situation, political stability, unity in the territory, which stemmed from “Win-Win” policy to reconcile and reunite the nation with peace. On this basis, Cambodia has made its effort to overcome those countless obstacles and difficulties in order to ensure peace, security, social order, socio-economic development, democracy, respect for human rights and human dignity as well as the international cooperation and integration in the region and the world.
In this regard, the Royal Government of Cambodia shall continue to implement our foreign policy based on the principles of transparency, peaceful connectivity and non-aligned movement, friendship and cooperation with all countries throughout the world on the basis of equality, respect for independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of each country. In addition, the Royal Government of Cambodia will continue to strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation with other countries, international and regional organizations to help deal with the major global challenges including the fight against terrorism and cross border crime, environmental pollution and infectious disease prevention, etc.
With regard to the sincere appreciation toward the continual achievements and improvement of Cambodian forces for the past 10 years, I would like to suggest Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, Chief of Army, Deputy Chief of Army, officers, non-commissioned officers to contribute in the great cause as follows:
- Shall continue to put more efforts on training to improve the capacity, profession and skill, expanding the knowledge on geographical situation, social policy as well as the challenges of assigned mission in order to complete those missions with achievement and safety. Beyond that, all soldiers shall pay more attention to learning foreign languages, especially English and French for communicating with other soldiers and people from other countries, where the base of the United Nations will be settled, and using it as the engine to pursue further knowledge.
- Shall continue to respect the rules, morality, customs, recommendations and advice of the United Nations while at the same time, maintaining dignity and great honor of the country and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces. We shall keep in mind that Cambodia has become the forces of the United Nations, which is the operation under the advice from commander and Law of United Nations.
- Shall continue good cooperation with the countries, peoples, respect the tradition and help the citizens of the countries that our forces have served during their missions. In the past, everywhere that our armed forces have reached we have supported and sponsored foods, provided medical assistance, saved and protected local people there. These are the acts that filled with humanity, moral, and dignity that is deserved to represent the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces.
- Shall often pay attentions to all sorts of dangers, including the dangers that come from the fighting clashes between various armed groups by the ambush attack shelling, infectious disease, or others severe diseases. Shall help and take care of one another with loves as referred by the old saying that “Once we stay at home we have different mothers, once we stay in the forest together we have only one mother”.
To conclude this “Stocktaking Conference on the Achievement of Cambodia’s 10-Years Peacekeeping Mission of the United Nations (2006-2016)”, I would like to wish all Cambodian army, who are completing their mission for maintaining the security overseas greater success and safety. Moreover, I would like to wish Excellencies, Ladies, Gentlemen, National and International Distinguished Guests, officers, and all participants the four gems of Buddhist blessings: Longevity, Nobility, Healthiness and Strength./.