Cambodia will contribute troops to UN peacekeeping forces in Chad and the Central African Republic, marking the poor Southeast Asian country's second military mission abroad in three years, the prime minister said on Tuesday. Prime Minister Hun Sen did not specify the number of Cambodian troops or when they would depart.
He said he decided "two weeks ago to send our forces to Chad and the Central African Republic" based on a request from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. He made the comments while presiding over a university graduation ceremony in the capital, Phnom Penh. The United Nations recently took over peacekeeping duties in the two African countries from the European Union.
Eastern Chad and northeastern Central African Republic have been seriously affected by fighting across the border in Sudan's Darfur region, where up to 300,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million have been driven from their homes since 2003.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said the Cambodian contingent would consist of noncombat forces and would perform only humanitarian duties. He said it was too soon to say how many troops would go and when.
In April 2006, Cambodia sent 135 soldiers to help UN peacekeepers clear mines in war-torn Sudan.
That same year, Hun Sen rejected US requests for the deployment of Cambodian troops in Iraq. He said he questioned the overall legitimacy of the war in Iraq and that it remained too dangerous for Cambodians to operate there.