Monday, July 6, 2009


July 5th 2009 was a memorable day for me and including all those that had served with the Malaysian Army Contingent under the auspices of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) from March 15th 1992 to July 5th 1993. Sixteen long years have passed from the day the contingent returned home to Malaysia after a 15 months tour of duty with the UN in Cambodia.

Out of the 850 strong army contingent, today only a small percentage of officers still remains in service, while almost 90% of the other ranks have retired. I still have in my personal possession the entire list all those officers and other ranks that were with the contingent, and it saddens me for not being able to maintain their exact whereabouts and their present preoccupation.

At the time when I completed documenting our experience in Cambodia in a book in 2004, there were already seven members of the contingent that had passed away, and I do not know now if that number have changed. I knew fairly well each and everyone of them, and one in particular whom I had talked to during my usual round of visits to the forward locations, died on a UN evacuation flight to Bangkok after having been diagnosed for malaria.

The 15 months tour in Cambodia was not without its excitement or danger. I personally felt some stressful moments of having to fulfill my responsibilities amidst the uncertain security and political environment surrounding the entire UN mission, especially during the period leading up to the UN sponsored general elections.

Political killing was on the rise, and the UN electoral workers who were deployed to the remote areas to established polling stations were threatened by some rouge soldiers. Some polling stations had to withdraw until such time the electoral workers personal safety was ensured. This was when we needed the Cambodian provincial military units to assist us in ensuring security, and they did so after some serious discussions with their leaders. I suppose, it was their trust in us, and our sincerity and hard work to bring peace to Cambodia that had made them realised the importance of a successful general elections.

Had the Cambodian military units refused to assist us, we would surely have failed in creating a safe environment for the people to come out to cast their votes during the election. Because of the close cooperation that we had with the Cambodian military units and the UN electoral workers, the Battambang province in which we were responsible recorded the highest voter turnout for the whole of Cambodia i.e. 95% voters turnout or 288,993 voters, out of the 303,705 voters registered.

I knew that my officers and soldiers played a sterling role throughout the period of the general elections, and some sleepless nights for those deployed in the interior where they were constantly faced with uncertain dangers.

Our return to Malaysia on July 5th 2009, were well received by officers and our families, and what had made our tour meaningful was that we had succeeded in giving the Cambodians the opportunity to cast their votes through a democratic process, and to elect a legitimate government of their choice. Cambodians have been deprived of a general election for decades, and their sufferings under the dreaded Khmer Rogue is still being felt till this very moment.

I would like to conclude by saying that Malaysia through the participation of its military contingent and staffs during the period of UNTAC had contributed to the peace and prosperity that Cambodia enjoys today. And let us hope that through her participation in ASEAN, Cambodia will no longer be the rouge state that she once was, but a thriving democracy with every opportunity to prosper and remain peaceful like all others within ASEAN.

And to all the officers and soldiers who were with me throughout the trying period in Cambodia, I only have this to say, “that without your cooperation and hard work, we would not have succeeded in our mission in Cambodia, and for this I remain thankful to all of you”.



tuahjebat said...


A commendable contribution and achievement by you and your Team.
Well done!

I was in Cambodia last year and this year. The Cambodian people I met talk highly of our military during their operations to support the UN in Cambodia, including the professional participation of our RMAF helicopter detachment there.

You and your Team made the nation proud and we hope the present generation of the military will not fail but to continue to keep the Jalur Gemilang flying

basri bin omar said...


Satu catatan mengusik jiwa ...terkenang berkhidmat di celah kepayahan di kawasan SOKSAN..antara Battambang dan sempadan timur Thailand/barat Kemboja..Moga2 Allah memberkati kita,Insyaallah!

komando said...

Yes Dato' Malaysian troops have never failed in any given UN mission abroad thus far.
We remain as the best peacekeepers and UN forces on record.
There is second to none as far as the UN HQ is concerned about Malaysian soldiers.
We are all proud of our officers and men.

Malaysian soldiers are the BEST.!

maurice said...

Dear Komando,

In general I agree with you except for the blunder we made in our first UN Mission in Congo.

I think we learned a good lesson from the blunder, hence we are better trained and prepared for subsequent UN missions.

nan said...

I must concur with you Dato'that UNTAC mission in Cambodia was by far the most challenging mission. We must put in record that this was the one and only mission whereby MALBAT successfully assisted UNTAC in implementation of the 3 phases of the mission namely The Repatriation of the Refugees, The Cantonment,Disarmament and Demobilisation process and lastly The Election phase. Whilst deploying for these phases, our troops came under constant threats and challenges. It was under these situations that made our soldiers stand up above the other nations. Under your able leadership Dato', the soldiers were further inspired to give their best which they did. They were brave and very committed to the mission. However what saddens me most of all is the lack of mention of the mission in references. Many in the Army today do not realise the contribution made by MALBAT UNTAC in bringing lasting peace to Cambodia. They always remember Somalia and Bosnia Herzegovina but not Cambodia. We too lost a soldier eventhough not due to hostile fire but nonetheless a casualty. Our soldiers were shot at by RPG's and machine guns and had to tread the countrysides scattered with antipers mines. By all standards, I agree very much that UNTAC Cambodia was the most successful mission ever participated by Malaysian troops. My hats off to those brave officers and men of MALBAT I UNTAC(15 March 92-5 Jul 93), deceased, retired and some still serving. We made the nation proud. We should continue to meet at reunions to commemorate the 15 months(it could also be the longest mission ever participated by Malaysian troops) that we proudly represented Malaysia in UNTAC Cambodia.There will always be countless stories to reminiscence and share. What better way to do so if not a reunion.