Cambodian Peacekeeper Wounded by Celebratory Gunfire

A Cambodian peacekeeper was injured in South Sudan last week when a fragment of a bullet fired into the air during local independence day celebrations fell from the sky and hit his arm, an official said on Wednesday.

Rith Vireak, a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) soldier deployed to the African nation about a month ago as part of an international peacekeeping force, was struck by the fragment while walking through a U.N. compound in the capital of Juba on Friday, according to Malinda Kosal, a spokeswoman for the Cambodian National Center for Peacekeeping Forces (NPMEC).

“That day, the [South] Sudanese were shooting guns and rifles in celebration of Independence Day,” Ms. Kosal said, adding that the peacekeepers had just finished training exercises for the day when the revelers began shooting into the air nearby.

“He was injured by a bullet while he walked through the compound in the evening,” she said of Mr. Vireak, who is in his 20s. “The bullet only grazed his right arm,” she said, adding that Mr. Vireak was treated at an on-site medical facility.

Ms. Kosal said another foreign peacekeeper was also wounded by a falling bullet fragment, but that she knew nothing more about the individual. The celebrations, she said, were held in advance of events marking South Sudan’s independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011.

Chhum Socheat, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, confirmed that a Cambodian soldier was injured in South Sudan but said the incident occurred on Thursday last week, and during training exercises.

“It’s just a small story,” he said, declining to comment further.

NPMEC deputy director Phal Samorn, however, denied that the incident even occurred.

“None of our Cambodian peacekeepers were injured,” he said.

Four Cambodian peacekeepers have died abroad since the country began sending soldiers on U.N. missions in 2005—none as a result of conflict, and all while serving in Mali.

Meak Sereivathana, 26, and Ny Nol, 32, succumbed to “respiratory problems” from contaminated food in June 2014, while Chan Somkum, who was in his 30s, died after being knocked unconscious by a tent flap during a violent windstorm that August. Suon Sambo, 31, died of malaria in September last year.

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