From Conflict to Peace: Cambodia’s Dedication to UN’s Global Peacekeeping Missions

One of the main aspirations of Cambodia's foreign policy is to establish international peace on the basis of the principles of equality and rights for all people.

Obviously, the devasting Pol Pot regime plunged Cambodia into genocide, armed conflict, destruction and isolation during the dark period between 1970s to 1990s. This tragic history left Cambodia in social, economic and political ruins. As a war-torn country, despite these historical scars of the catastrophic decades, the government has implemented various policies and initiatives to reach national reconciliation and unity as well as to build peace and political stability, leading to economic growth and enhancement of living standards for its people. Prior to the pandemic, from 1998 to 2019, Cambodia’s economic growth remarkably flourished leading to the attainment of lower middle-income status in 2015, with the impressive average annual increase rate of 7.7 percent, making Cambodia one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

Having seen the immense importance of regional integration and cooperation as the pivotal catalysts for national security, peace and sustainable development, Cambodia has actively engaged in the regional and international organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN), Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), the United Nations (UN) and other not mentioned international organizations and blocs. Noticeably, Cambodian foreign policy puts strong emphasis on the crucial role of ASEAN. Phnom Penh recognizes the key role of this regional bloc in safeguarding stability and peace in Southeast Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region. Since its accession to ASEAN in 1999, Cambodia has assumed the role of ASEAN chair on three occasions—2002, 2012, and 2022, fostering regional cooperation, integration and solidarity for the sake of regional peace, stability and development.  

Additionally, since its membership in 2004, Cambodia has played a vital role in ASEM through its active participation in various discussions and initiatives, promoting cooperation and understanding between Asia and Europe. Noticeably, in spite of the pandemic, Cambodia successfully hosted the virtual 13th Asia-Europe Meeting Summit in 2021, offering the platform for leaders from over 50 countries to have fruitful dialogues in order to explore ways and means to tackle regional and global issues for collective interest.

More importantly, one of the main aspirations of Cambodia’s foreign policy is to establish international peace on the basis of the principles of equality and rights for all people. In this sense, since 2006, notwithstanding the limited resources, Cambodia has emerged as an active participant in peacekeeping missions under the UN’s umbrella by transforming itself from being a host country of UNTAC (United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia) to a country that has contributed blue berets to 12 missions involving nine countries. These missions have involved 9,205 personnel, including 726 female peacekeepers. In fact, sending Cambodian peacekeeping forces to join the peace-keeping endeavors under the UN framework is also one of the priorities stipulated in Cambodia’s defence white paper 2022 for strengthening Cambodian armed forces’ capacities in the areas of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Furthermore, to promote the gender equality and women empowerment, Cambodia has acknowledged the women’s ability of performing tasks as capable as men. This acknowledgement has been concretely evidenced by their constant accomplishments. In this regard, Cambodia has enlarged the number of its female troops dispatched to all levels of UN peacekeeping operations. Consequently, for its participation in UN peacekeeping operations, the UN rated Cambodia third in ASEAN (after Indonesia and Malaysia) and 28th out of 122 countries in the globe. In terms of deploying female peacekeepers overseas, Cambodia was placed 13th in the world and second among ASEAN nations, behind Indonesia. This gender equality promotion is also in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

More essentially, Cambodia’s essential role in the UN peace keeping mission was also highly praised by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during his discussion with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet on the sidelines of the 78th UN General Assembly (UNGA). Additionally, while receiving the courtesy visit from the UN representative in Cambodia last year, Cambodian Foreign Minister Sok Chenda Sophea ensured the Cambodia’s resolute commitment to its continued support to the UN peacekeeping missions by stressing the country’s firm dedication to global peace and security. The top diplomat also revealed the Kingdom’s ambitious plan to expand its peacekeeping operations to other UN frameworks.

Noticeably, the world’s political and socio-economic landscapes is uncertain and unpredictable due to its rapid evolution. On top of this, the ongoing Russian-Ukraine war, the escalated crisis in the Middle-East, geopolitical rivalry among the superpowers just to name a few has considerably affected the regional and global cooperation, security, and stability. Bitterly experienced falling victim of the geopolitical competition during the Cold War, Cambodia intends to maintain its current course of “independent and neutral foreign policy, grounded in the rule of law, equal mutual respect and adherence to the principles of the UN Charter” in order to further foster its domestic interests, nourish current friendships, and build more harmonious relationships.

Like other small states, Cambodia places utmost significance on peace and security for its survival. Hence, Cambodia vehemently opposed an aggression against other sovereign states, meddling in their domestic affairs, and the threat or use of force in international relations. Through bilateral, regional, and international frameworks, Cambodia will proactively pursue the possibility of strengthening and broadening close cooperation with other countries in order to support global peace, security, stability, sustainable development, and prosperity that can be shared and cherished by all.

As such, Cambodia is firmly dedicated to promoting peacekeeping operations and partaking in this righteous endeavor. Undoubtedly, as one of the regional outstanding contributors to the UN peacekeeping missions, Cambodia has chosen to run for membership in the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission for the years 2025–2026 aimed at further contributing to this noble humanitarian task, eventually benefiting the humanity as a whole.

Obviously, this membership will enable Cambodia to play more roles and responsibilities in advocating the global peace, security, and stability, all of which are the essential prerequisites for sustainable development. Most significantly, being part of this body will also provide Cambodia with a platform to share its experiences, best practices and lessons learned in the process of peacebuilding, national reconciliation, and socio-economic development to other warring nations which are eager to taste the blissful flavors of peace and development like the rest of the world.

Samnang Yen
Samnang Yen
YEN Samnang has a master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Cambodia and a bachelor’s degrees in International Relations (with honors) from Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia. Currently, he is a research fellow at the Asian Vision Institute, a policy think tank based in Cambodia. He was a guest editor at the Cambodian Education Forum from 2020 to 2023. Email: yen_samnang[at]yahoo.com