Prime Minister Hun Sen said Friday that he has decided Cambodian forces should not go to Iraq as it is too dangerous.
Government spokesman and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said this means Cambodia will not send fighting troops or non-combat personnel to provide humanitarian assistance.
“We don’t send humanitarian or fighting forces to Iraq, as well as Afghanistan,” Khieu Kanharith said after Hun Sen made his comments at the Council of Ministers.
Hun Sen told reporters that US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli asked him on April 10 to examine the possibility of sending humanitarian forces, in the form of soldiers, medical officials or deminers.
“Every single day, [we] just see people killed and kidnapped, so I won’t let my fellow Cambodians who suffered years to get more suffering…due to continuing war on terrorism or fighting or beheading,” the prime minister said.
“Cambodia will not send forces to Iraq even if there is a request from any country or the United Nations,” he said, adding that the Constitution states that Cambodia cannot have military bases in another country unless the UN requests it.
Jeff Daigle, US Embassy spokesman, said the embassy respects the government’s decisions on the matter. “Whether or not Cambodia should participate in a peacekeeping or peace-stabilizing operation is one for the Cambodian government to decide, and we certainly respect whatever decision they make regarding that,” he said.
It is not for the embassy to say whether the Cambodian government’s decision is final, he added.
“Who knows, in the future the situation may change,” he said.
Kong Korm, vice president of the Sam Rainsy Party, said sending troops would have boosted Cambodia’s international profile and improved the nation’s military.
Chea Samnang, a 37-year-old RCAF soldier in Banteay Meanchey province, said he was fed up with fighting, though he might have been tempted to go to Iraq if the money had been good.
“Fighting in Iraq can earn us some big money. Maybe I would take the risk for a year and save up money for my wife and children,” he said.
(Additional reporting by William Shaw)