Malaysian peacekeepers should keep the country's flag flying high
SINCE Malaysia dispatched the first group of troops to serve as peacekeepers with the United Nations Operations in the Republic of Congo in 1960, the country has contributed more than 20,000 soldiers, as well as about 1,000 police, to UN peace missions in all corners of the world, from nearby Cambodia to Somalia in Africa and Bosnia in eastern Europe. To date, 28 Malaysians have lost their lives while serving as blue helmets in dangerous places. This tradition of serving the world as UN peacekeepers continues with the departure of the advance team of 200 Malaysian Company 8 (Malcoy 8) on Monday to begin its one-year tour of duty in the eastern sector of the area of operations of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil). Another Malaysian contingent, the 540-strong Malaysian Battalion 4 (Malbatt 4), is also deployed in the western sector in Lebanon. What is striking is that military personnel from the Royal Brunei Armed Forces are embedded in the Malaysian contingent.
While the number of troops deployed to Lebanon makes it Malaysia's current largest peacekeeping mission, the country's involvement in UN operations also extends to sending a small military medical team to Western Sahara, police personnel to Darfur, South Sudan and Timor Leste, and observers to Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This demonstrates that peacekeeping operations have become more complex and challenging and moved beyond supervising ceasefires and providing a buffer between warring factions to protecting civilians, supervising elections, delivering relief, building trust and much more. But it also shows, that though Malaysia is a small, developing country, we are prepared to contribute actively to peacekeeping missions. The establishment of the Malaysian Peacekeeping Training Centre, which has trained Malaysian military officers, as well as those from more than 50 countries, clearly reflects the country's strong commitment to international peace and security.
This is supported by the fact that Malaysia is brokering peace talks in Mindanao and it is the Malaysian contingent that is leading the International Monitoring Team. In this regard, it is a matter of pride that Malaysian peacekeepers have been highly regarded and respected. Last year, the then Unifil force commander and head of mission Maj-Gen Alberto Asarta Cuevas hailed "the professionalism, commitment, perseverance and respectful attitude" of our soldiers towards the Lebanese hosts and fellow Unifil soldiers as "an example to all peacekeepers". It is hoped that Malaysian peacekeepers will continue to keep the country's flag flying high wherever they are deployed and not do anything that could undermine our good record and high standing.