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Lt Col Chea Maysaros, winner of UN Medal, on her role as peacekeeper

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Lt Col Chea Maysaros receives the UN Medal for her work as deputy commander of the 928th Engineering Corps on their mission to Lebanon. SUPPLIED

Lt Col Chea Maysaros, winner of UN Medal, on her role as peacekeeper

Despite not having a family history of military service, and gender-based challenges, Chea Maysaros’ personal responsibility and courage has led to her becoming one of the most widely recognised women peacekeepers in the world. She is a recipient of the UN Medal, and was recently selected for the UN’s “Women4Multilateralism” campaign in Geneva, Switzerland.

According to the Cambodian Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva, the campaign was held over three days from March 8-10 to emphasise the important and meaningful roles of more than 110 women with their strong commitment to “building a better world for all”.

Maysaros, a lieutenant colonel and deputy commander of the 928 Special Engineering Corps, returned from a UN peacekeeping mission to Lebanon on February 3, where she was in charge of food management and demining farmland and residential areas on the Lebanese-Israeli border.

In April 2012, she participated in a UN peacekeeping mission to South Sudan and was in charge of traffic accident monitoring and investigation. She was also among the first women to join patrols in the field.

Her remarkable courage, as it were, demonstrates the resilience of women. However, there are many things that the public does not know about her – including the reason she made the decision to join the national defence. Remarkably, there is no history of military service in her family.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Lt Col Chea Maysaros was enlisted in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) in 2010 and her first UN peacekeeping mission was to South Sudan in 2012. SUPPLIED

Maysaros joined the defence forces in 2010 after seeing the bravery Cambodian soldiers demonstrated in the “Angkor Sentinel 2010” military exercises, in which troops from several countries in the region were hosted by Cambodia and cross-trained to enhance peacekeeping and security in the region.

In an interview with The Post on March 15, Maysaros, a 39-year-old resident of Svay Pak commune in Phnom Penh’s Russey Keo district, described how she first saw Cambodian troops, including women, working with foreign soldiers during the exercises.

All of the soldiers worked well together. They were professional and clearly respected one another.

“I remember thinking of how exciting it must be to share that camaraderie. I thought that if I joined the army, I would be able to achieve my dream of working with people of many different nationalities and be able to participate in overseas missions, perhaps even UN peacekeeping missions,” said Maysaros.

She was born in Siem Reap town’s Chung Khnies commune. Maysaros, the second child of four siblings, said that after the “Angkor Sentinel 2010” military exercises ended, she sought out information about applying to the Ministry of National Defence.

She applied for a position with the Military Police in 2010 and achieved the desired results.

She passed through armed forces basic training and went on to receive training in some additional disciplines, including legal skills.

Her commanding officers soon recognised her dedication to her role, and in 2011 she was selected to participate in two major military exercises – held in Thailand and Mongolia to “Strengthen Regional Peacekeeping Cooperation”.

“I was very happy at the time because I did not expect my dream to come true,” she said.

Successful participation in the exercises in both countries developed her confidence, both in herself and in her training. She continued to apply herself, maintaining her physical condition, and working on her intellectual skills. Her studies were focussed on English, accounting and management. In 2012, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Asia Europe University in Phnom Penh.

“In April 2012, I was selected to join the UN peacekeeping mission to South Sudan. I was in charge of patrolling and investigating traffic accidents,” she said.

According to Maysaros, most Sudanese lack an understanding of traffic laws and the roads in the country are very unsafe.

“The patrols were often difficult, because of the terrible conditions of the road infrastructure in South Sudan,” she said. “And of course, I was also the only woman on the patrol.”

However, the mission in South Sudan was not as challenging as the one to Lebanon she just completed, she said.

“The UN peacekeeping mission to Lebanon, which I joined in 2021, had a number of challenges, especially the spread of Covid-19. But under the direct care of the head of the Royal Government of Cambodia, all of our forces were protected and vaccinated,” she said.

On the mission, she was deputy commander of the 928 Specialized Engineering Division – in charge of demining, food and logistics, with 180 men and 30 women in a camp in Lebanon. She and her team worked along the Lebanese-Israeli border.

“Our mission there was to clear mines along the border and make it safer for people to build houses or grow crops,” she said.

“In the past, I was aware of some people’s preconception that women are weak and cannot work as hard as men,” she added.

According to her, one of the major problems women soldiers faced on the deployment – especially while working in the field – was a lack of restrooms. They also had to deal with hot weather and health problems, but persevered to get the job done.

During her mission to Lebanon, she did not see any other female deputy commanders, and saw only men of equivalent rank. This may be why the commander of the UN peacekeeping mission presented her with the UN medal.

“It is a source of pride for our country to receive such a medal,” she said.

Cambodia has deployed nearly 8,000 peacekeepers to nine countries since 2006, according to the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces Management, Mines and Explosive Remnants of War Clearance.

The Kingdom of Cambodia is particularly proud of how our women have contributed to peacekeeping operations in other parts of the world, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn.

“We are proud of you and many others who are fulfilling their noble mission for global peace and security,” he said.


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