Officially seeing off a detachment of RCAF soldiers who will depart for a UN mission in Sudan on Saturday, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned the troops to not repeat the mistakes of the Untac mission in Cambodia.
“Respect the sovereignty [of Sudan]…you are not an invading army, occupation army or mercenaries,” Hun Sen said in his speech to the soldiers at the Council of Ministers on Wednesday.
“On this point we received a good and painful lesson from the Untac mission in Cambodia,” he said.
Hun Sen said that during Untac, UN officers used their diplomatic immunity to bring tax-free goods into Cambodia that they then sold for a profit to Cambodians.
“Some Untac soldiers and officials used a warehouse in Kilometer 6 [commune] to bring goods out to sell at markets…making it very difficult to control the economic situation at the time,” he said.
He also implied that Untac, which organized the country’s first multi-party elections after decades of bloody conflict and repressive communist rule, had used weapons to influence voters.
“I want to stress that you bring along 133 AK-47 rifles. You have the weapons, but I would like to tell you: Don’t move the gun barrels like we saw in Phnom Penh…. You all saw that during 1992 and 1993 especially on Election Day,” he added.
Dressed in camouflage military uniform and cap, Hun Sen said that the UN was still violating Cambodia’s sovereignty.
“Recently, I just criticized the United Nations officials who…violate the sovereignty of our country,” Hun Sen said, apparently in reference to UN envoy Yash Ghai, who last month criticized the government as having a poor record on human rights.
“You must remember the words of the prime minister…we hate those who violate our sovereignty,” he added.
Also at the sending-off ceremony, UN Resident Coordinator Douglas Gardner praised the government for reducing the number of Cambodians living with AIDS, for raising awareness about avian influenza and for joining the World Trade Organization.
Nguon Sok, commander of the 135-man detachment, said that he was excited to go.
“I told my subordinates not to be weak in the face of difficulty,” he said. “We must follow Samdech’s [Hun Sen’s] ideas.”