The bodies of four U.N. peacekeepers killed during an ambush in Central African Republic (CAR) earlier this month were repatriated last night, with Prime Minister Hun Sen and senior government officials presiding over a memorial at Phnom Penh International Airport.
Im Sam, Seang Norint, Mom Tola and Mao Eng were fatally shot in southeast CAR on May 8, in an attack that the U.N. said was carried out by the Christian “anti-Balaka” militia group.
Defense Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said hundreds of military officers arrived at the capital’s airport before 8 p.m. to receive the soldiers’ bodies. After arriving at 8:30 p.m., the bodies were taken from the airplane to separate U.N. military vehicles destined or the soldiers’ respective home provinces.
“Provincial military and authorities will take part in their respective funerals because they sacrificed their lives for the sake of peace in the world,” Mr. Socheat said, adding that the deceased peacekeepers’ families have not yet received compensation from the U.N., expected to be $70,000 to each family.
Tan Saly, deputy director-general of the U.N.’s National Center for Peacekeeping Forces, said yesterday that the four bodies would be transported to the provinces of Pursat, Siem Reap and Svay Rieng and a location in Phnom Penh.
Tann Phearoth, the wife of Im Sam, said she was eager to receive the body of her late husband, with whom she had a 3-year-old son after marrying in 2013.
“This is the last chance I will have to see his face,” Ms. Phearoth said, adding that his body would be buried in Siem Reap City’s Krabei Riel commune this week.
Since 2006, Cambodia has sent more than 4,180 personnel on U.N. peacekeeping missions to Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Syria, Lebanon, Mali, Cyprus and CAR. Five others have died of malaria, food poisoning and in a violent sandstorm.
The U.N. began a peace-keeping mission in CAR in 2014 and now has more than 12,000 troops in the country seeking to safeguard civilians from eruptions of violence between Christian and Muslim factions.