Ahead of a ceremony at the Phnom Penh Military Airbase on Thursday to welcome home nearly 200 peacekeepers who returned Wednesday night from a yearlong mission in Lebanon, the unit’s commanding officer described the posting as “the best one.”
With Cambodian peacekeepers stationed in countries including Mali, Central African Republic and South Sudan, Colonel Mam Neang, 53, commander of the 184 soldiers in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces’ (RCAF) Engineering Company 621, said the Lebanon posting was comparatively easy.
“I think Lebanon is the best one for a mission,” Mr. Neang said. “The climate, the people are good. It’s like Europe and very different than the Middle East and Africa.”
Lebanon shares its border with Syria in the north and east and Israel in the south. Mr. Neang said his unit was primarily based in the southeastern Marjeyoun district.
Mr. Neang, who was part of two previous one-year postings in Lebanon as well as peacekeeping missions in Sudan, said his unit’s two main tasks were construction and demining.
But as there was little demining to be done, he said, his unit primarily built border markers between Lebanon and Israel, and helped with civilian construction projects.
“We gave support to local people by building roads and sometimes cleaning rivers so water could flow,” he said. “I think it’s not very complicated work.”
Mr. Neang said that while there was fighting between some Israeli forces and “jihad” during their mission, his forces never came under fire.
Som Sarom, a 30-year-old lieutenant who was part of the peacekeeper’s protection force, said that despite the ongoing civil war currently devastating Syria, they did not encounter any refugees or fighters involved in the conflict.
“It was not dangerous,” he said.
Another group of 184 RCAF peacekeepers left for Lebanon on Tuesday to replace the returning troops.