Hun Sen: Humanitarian Forces Possible in Iraq, Afghanistan

Cambodian troops could join multinational forces in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan but only to perform non-combat roles there, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Thursday.

The remarks, part of an ad­dress delivered at the opening of a Kom­pong Cham province bridge and broadcast nationally Thurs­day, marked a softening of the premier’s stance follow the government’s public rejection of an April 2006 US request for military assistance in Iraq. “Cambodia cannot send troops as requested by other countries to Afghanistan and Iraq,” Hun Sen said Thursday.

“Cambodia would not send troops to be killed. We can only go to help with demining, construction and hospital services. We don’t send troops to fight,” he said.

The government said in 2006 that it had declined a US request for assistance in Iraq, whether for combat or support personnel.

Hun Sen also used his speech to take a swipe at UN human rights envoy to Cambodia Yash Ghai.

“Cambodia is also obliged to send troops to other countries under the UN flag,” Hun Sen said, adding that Cambodia could assist the troubled birth nation of Ghai.

“If the UN needs solutions, Cambodia will send soldiers to help Kenya to show Yash Ghai that Cambodia is capable of solving other countries’ problems,” he said.

Violent unrest following disputed election results on Dec 27 have left hundreds dead in Kenya.

US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said Friday that Cambo­dian officials had not broached the subject of the premier’s most recent remarks with the embassy.

However peacekeeping re­main­ed a matter of ongoing discussion with the government as part of Cam­bodia’s participation in the Glo­bal Peace Operations Initiative, a five-year US program launched in 2004 to train and equip peacekeepers in other countries, Daigle said.

            (Addi­tional reporting by Douglas Gillison)


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