Ninety-nine RCAF soldiers demonstrated their ability to participate in future UN peacekeeping operations in Kompong Speu province on Friday, following a two-week training course by US military officials.
During a training exercise for reporters in Odong district, RCAF soldiers held back a crowd of stick-wielding villagers shouting “go home UN” at a mock security checkpoint, then handcuffed a man who had run from his parked car before searching his vehicle for explosives.
The training, which ended Sunday, was sponsored by RCAF and the US Pacific Command, and held at the RCAF’s Training and Mine Unexploded Ordnance Clearance Center.
It was designed to ready RCAF military personnel to train soldiers for UN humanitarian missions, according to a statement issued to reporters.
“The program will enable RCAF instructors and participants to gain United Nations… ‘Training Recognition’, allowing them to conduct possible peacekeeping missions worldwide,” the statement said. “This course will allow RCAF personnel to conduct and sustain training on their own.”
The training was also aimed at enhancing “interoperability and professional relationships between US forces and other Asia-Pacific militaries,” the statement said, though it did not elaborate.
Lieutenant General Nem Sowath, adviser to Defense Minister Tea Banh, said Prime Minister Hun Sen strongly backed the training.
“The government of Cambodia decided that we should do humanitarian [training] to help other countries,” he said.
US Pacific Command Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Dunne said that one of the three RCAF platoons participating will be selected to go to Mongolia in August to participate in the Khannquest (Mission of King) 2007 peacekeeping exercise, which is organized by the US.
“It will be one of the largest peacekeeping exercises in Asia Pacific,” Dunne said, adding that troops from the US, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Indonesia and Mongolia will also participate.
Jeff Daigle, spokesman for the US Embassy, wrote in an e-mail that the training program had nothing to do with the US’ request last year for Cambodian forces to go to Iraq.
In April 2006, Hun Sen said that he had decided not to send Cambodian troops to Iraq, partly because it was too dangerous. His decision followed a request from US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli to examine the possibility of Cambodia providing humanitarian forces.