Phnom Penh (FN), Apr. 10 - On 8 April 2023, the Association of Bulgarian Veteran Peacekeepers, and its representative in Cambodia as well as Polish veteran peacekeepers together honored the 30th anniversary of the heroic death of our combat comrades in the peacekeeping mission of United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC).

The event took place at the "St. George The Glorious" chapel in the yard of the Bulgarian Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, presided over by secretary of state of the Information Ministry Chea Chanboribo and president of the Association of Bulgarian Veteran Peacekeepers Georgi Stefanov as well as other veteran UNTAC peacekeepers.

On that occasion, Chanboribo underlined the sacrifices of the peacekeepers from Bulgaria and Poland who came to seek peace in Cambodia under the UNTAC mission.

“The whole Cambodian people will not forget the great merits of UNTAC who came to help Cambodia, in particular the Bulgarian peacekeepers, and we will remember the four Bulgarian warriors who sacrificed their lives for peace and democracy in Cambodia. So far, our country is prosperous, and as we move forward, we still remember our friends who came to help us in the past,” Chanboribo added.

He added, after Cambodia’s liberation from the genocidal regime of Pol Pot in 1979, Bulgaria provided scholarships to 20 Cambodian students each year to pursue undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate studies in Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, Georgi Stefanov also recalled how the Bulgarian peacekeepers spent their time in Cambodia seeking peace and living with the local people of Cambodia.

“Thirty years ago on this day, a series of armed attacks began against the United Nations component responsible for organizing and holding open and democratic elections in Cambodia to give the Khmer people a chance for peaceful and dignified development,” said Georgi Stefanov.

Georgi continued, “There are still people who were children and teenagers then and remember the camps of the Bulgarian soldiers. They remember the security around them, the warm human attitude, the cheerful disposition, the lack of distance and arrogance of our boys towards the local people. They remember not only the smiles and food shared with the local children, but also the schools and roads built by our military engineers, the medical care of our military doctors and nurses for the sick people from the surrounding villages. And we remember the swarms of children who waved and ran beside each of our convoys, we remember the smiles and blessings of their parents when we passed by their houses, rice fields and stalls, we remember how cheerfully and trustingly the monks in the Buddhist temples and monasteries welcomed us and talked to us.”

Piotr Oller, a Polish UNTAC veteran who came to Cambodia in 1993, recalled that five Polish soldiers died during the mission. He was among 1,250 Polish soldiers sent to the country. Most Polish soldiers were deployed in Kampong Thom and Siem Reap provinces.

“We are feeling very connected with Cambodia. We are always with other countries, such as Canada, Australia and Bulgaria…they all miss​ Cambodia and are connected to your country. That’s so amazing,” Piotr emphasized.

In 1992 and 1993, three of the Bulgarian soldiers were killed during an operation in Thpong district’s Omlaing commune and another one in the Oral district. They were among the 49 Bulgarian UNTAC peacekeeping forces, one of them a Cambodian interpreter.