UN peacekeepers from Cambodia heading for South Sudan hope their de-mining experience helps the Sudanese
The Cambodian soldiers heading to Sudan for a UN-backed landmine clearing operation, have said they hoped they could use their experience recovering from civil war to help the war-torn Sudanese, AFP reports:
"I feel very proud that our country, which just got out of the war, can help others", said police warrant officer Som Chantha, 40, one of around 100 soldiers attending a farewell ceremony Saturday.
"I hope I can do good work in mine clearing for our nation."
Photo: A Cambodian mine-clearing soldier receives the UN peacekeeper cap at the military airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday 15 April 2006. (EPA/MAK REMISSA)
The Cambodians, whose heavily-mined country is slowly emerging from three decades of civil war that ended in 1998, are expected to leave for the northeast African nation around 8:00 pm (1300 GMT) Saturday.
Photo: A monk blesses flowers to Cambodian mine-clearing soldiers before their departure at the military airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Saturday 15 April 2006. (EPA/MAK REMISSA)
Separately, in a letter to the soldiers seen by journalists Saturday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said it was an "honour" for the deminers to serve. Hun Sen urged the Cambodians not to abuse Sudan's sovereignty.
"We are not invading soldiers and not colonial soldiers, but we are soldiers for peacekeeping who have to respect the independence and sovereignty of that country," the letter, dated Wednesday, said.
Photo: A Cambodian peacekeeper (R) is bid farewell by a relative before leaving Phnom Penh for Sudan at the Royal Cambodia Air Force base. (AFP/Tang Chhin Sothy)
Sadly, according to UN estimates, between 15,000 and 20,000 people are killed or disabled by landmines and unexploded ordnance around the world each year. Some 20 percent are children. There is no accurate data available on the number of landmine victims in Sudan, but the UN has reported some 1,800 people have been killed or injured over the past five years.