Author Topic: Thai troops will build ties of friendship in their mission with the UN  (Read 839 times)


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Thai troops will build ties of friendship in their mission with the UN

The best weapon for 800 soldiers joining a United Nations peace-keeping operation in Sudan is "hands and smiles" to build ties of friendship with the people of Darfur, says the man heading the mission.

"Thai soldiers will support the UN peacekeeping mission. We have no enemies and will not be foes to any group. What we have to offer is friendship and friendliness to all, " said Narong Suankaew, commander of Task Force 980 Thai/Darfur.

Soldiers from various units - infantrymen, military engineers, cavalrymen, medical staff and special warfare troops - are being trained at a camp in Nakhon Ratchasima in preparation for their trip to the war-torn region of western Sudan, which starts in mid-July.

After the Nakhon Ratchasima course, they will join an exercise with the navy in Chon Buri in April. The training, which takes five months, is to prepare them for the operation and make them familiar with the culture, way of life of the Sudanese and the situation in Darfur.

In mid-July, when the troops join the UN peacekeeping operation, the average temperature in Sudan will be 43C, on some days climbing as high as 50C.

Lt Col Narong said Thai soldiers had joined the UN on previous operations including missions to East Timor in 1999, Iraq in 2003 and Burundi in 2005.

Lt Col Narong himself, and soldiers from the 13th Infantry Regiment in Udon Thani, the main unit for the Thai operation in Sudan, were a part of the UN peacekeeping mission in East Timor.

During their mission, they impressed the Timorese with their friendliness and smiles. They would adopt the same approach in Africa, he said.

"In Darfur, Thai troops will wear UN blue helmets. We must treat all groups equally. We cannot take sides. If we give special favours to certain groups, their rivals will become hostile towards us," he said.

Task Force 980 will set up camp in a desert in Mukhjar town in western Sudan. Its troops will work with soldiers from nine other countries under the UN Afghan mission in Darfur.

The UN has asked Thai soldiers to conduct patrols, set up road checkpoints and escort UN officials when goods are distributed.

Each soldier will be paid at least US$1,028 (34,000 baht) a month. But Lt Col Narong said money was not their priority.

"They are willing to go. As soldiers, they want to have experience in overseas operations. It will help build the Thai armed forces. Money is just a side benefit," he said.

Maj Gen Jerdwut Kraprayoon, director of the Supreme Command's Peace Operations Centre, said the mission would last three to four months, with troops rotated every six months.

Bangkok Post
Writer: Wassana Nanuam