Peacekeepers’ Bodies Returned to Phnom Penh

The bodies of two Cambodian military personnel who died June 10 while on a U.N. peacekeeping mission in the turbulent North African nation of Mali were repatriated Wednesday night.

About 300 military and military police officers turned out at Phnom Penh International Airport just before 7:30 p.m. for a ceremony to receive the bodies of Meak Sereivathana, 26, and Ny Nol, 32, who died of suspected food poisoning.

At a repatriation ceremony at the Phnom Penh International Airport on Wednesday, military police carry the coffins of two soldiers who died June 10 on a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali. The reason given for the peacekeepers' deaths was food poisoning, though no autopsy has been performed on the bodies. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
At a repatriation ceremony at the Phnom Penh International Airport on Wednesday, military police carry the coffins of two soldiers who died June 10 on a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali. The reason given for the peacekeepers’ deaths was food poisoning, though no autopsy has been performed on the bodies. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

At the ceremony, General Sem Sovanny, the director-general of the National Center for Peacekeeping Forces, said it was an extremely sad occasion for the military.

“We regret their deaths to the utmost, because this is the first time [Cambodian peacekeepers have died]—we have never had this between 2006 and 2014,” he said.

Gen. Sovanny said families of personnel killed on U.N. missions usually receive $50,000 from the U.N., but that there has been no news from the U.N. regarding compensation.

Chan Pichry, 46, the mother of Meak Sereivathana, said she was still coming to terms with her son’s death.

“I am absolutely shocked about my son dying, and I cannot find any words to say about this,” she said.

Ms. Pichry also offered an explanation as to why the government asked the U.N. not to perform autopsies on the two peacekeepers’ bodies.

“My husband and I agreed not to wait for an autopsy because I wanted to keep my son’s body whole for a traditional ceremony,” she said.

Funerals for the pair will be held Thursday.

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