Feelings Mixed on Deploying Troops to Iraq

Despite the country’s policy of neutrality, several people said Mon­day that sending troops to Iraq is a matter of pride, while others said Cambodia should solve problems at home before taking on those of other nations.

“We could gain a good reputation in front of the world if we went to fight,” said cyclo driver and former Khmer Rouge soldier Chea Sok­hum, 41.

“The reputation I want us to earn is that even though we are the poorest country in the world, we can still protect the world and help the world,” he said.

Cambodian officials confirmed on Thursday that Washington had formally asked Cambodia to send troops to bolster US operations in Iraq.

On Monday, Information Min­ister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Prime Min­ister Hun Sen was considering the request. He added that the US ask­ed only for help with “nation building” in Iraq.

Khieu Kanharith did not give details about what part of the nation needed to be built, but added that du­ties could include demining and that RCAF soldiers would not “fight in the war.”

Interior Ministry police officer Uon Sokheng, 41, was more zealous than most interviewed and said that he would be happy for his children to serve in Iraq.

“Sending troops is for my country’s honor,” he said. “I have no doubts about sending my own children.”

Article 53 of the Constitution states that “Cambodia shall not join in any military alliance or military pact which violates its policy of neutrality,” and that “Cambodia shall not invade any country, nor interfere in any other countries’ internal affairs.”

Soda vendor Sann Siem, 48, said that the country has been through too many wars already to now get in­volved in Iraq.

“We should stay put. We should fix our own country first before we help other countries,” he said.

Tire-pump operator Nuon Phean, 38, agreed. He added that the US was an untrustworthy ally. “I don’t support the government sending troops, and I won’t go myself. It’s good for nations to help other nations, but I’m not so sure Iraq is a bad country,” he said. “Plus, the US couldn’t find weapons of mass destruction there. None of the things the US said came true.”




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