British NCOs leave Cambodia in disgrace

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The Independent Online
TWO BRITISH senior non-commissioned officers with the 16,000-strong United Nations peace-keeping force in Cambodia have been sent home in disgrace after one went absent without leave in Phnom Penh and another got drunk and beat up two Canadians.

An Army sergeant, temporarily attached to the Royal Marines, went missing from his post in the northern town of Stung Treng to spend two weeks in the capital. 'He didn't like Stung Treng. He liked the lights of the city,' said Colonel Jose Baudean, who is in charge of personnel matters for the multinational force supporting the UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (Untac).

The second NCO sent home is a Royal Navy petty officer who got drunk and started a fight in a bar in the southern city of Sihanoukville, assaulting two Canadians who were also serving with the UN forces. Both men were sent home by their immediate commanding officer last week to face disciplinary hearings, said a UN military spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Dick Palk.

The British team is a small one with its carefully-selected members doing specific jobs. The incidents were 'grossly inconvenient', Navy sources said.

The Minstry of Defence yesterday confirmed that the two cases had occurred, but would give no further details. 'These things happen with one or two individuals from time to time,' a spokesman said. 'Obviously we'll go through the normal disciplinary channels.' Unless there are extenuating circumstances, a petty officer could be demoted and face a heavy fine and severe leave restrictions for involvement in a drunken brawl.

The British contingent in Cambodia comprises about 70 naval personnel and 30 to 40 others. The Navy headquarters is at Phnom Penh, but the personnel are spread among coastal and riverside locations from where they patrol a maze of rivers and lakes. They use Soviet-built patrol craft provided by the Cambodians. Their task is to ensure unhindered navigation and to deter movements of arms.

The overall UN naval commander is a Uruguayan, who has a flotilla of patrol boats on the Mekong river and the huge Tonle Sap Lake in the centre of the country.

The British also have a mine clearance unit, based at Phnom Penh, and a training team at Pailin, which is teaching the Cambodians - mostly former Khmer Rouge guerrillas - to lift mines, thousands of which litter the country. No one from these units was involved in the incidents.