UN Advanced Mission in Cambodia (UNAMIC)/UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC)

by Greg Sawyer

Greg is a university staff member working in the communications unit



Australia had taken a leading diplomatic role in Cambodia in the search for a settlement to factional strife in a country still suffering the effects of the genocidal Pol Pot regime of the 1970s. The Australian contribution to the resulting UN operation included the force commander and the operation's communications component.

UN Advanced Mission in Cambodia (UNAMIC) was established in November 1991 to assist the four Cambodian parties to maintain their ceasefire during the period prior to the establishment and deployment of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) and to initiate mine-awareness training for civilians. Later the mandate grew to include a major training program for Cambodians in mine detection and mine-clearance of repatriation routes, reception centres and resettlement areas. The Australian contingent consisted of some 65 personnel including military observers, a signals unit and minor support to the mission. UNAMIC was absorbed by UNTAC in March 1992.

In March 1992 UNTAC was established under the 1991 Paris Agreements to supervise a ceasefire and general election in Cambodia. UNTAC absorbed UNAMIC and consisted of some 22,000 personnel from 32 countries. Australia’s contribution to UNTAC numbered some 1,215 ADF personnel - 65 peers of the UNAMIC Contingent, mainly consisting of the 2nd Signal Regiment on 12 month tour of duty, New Zealand communications staff (45 personnel on 6 month tours) collectively forming the Force Communications Unit (FCU UNTAC comprised 545 personnel from 1992-1993). The FCU was spread across 56 locations throughout Cambodia, Movement Control Group of 30 ADF Personnel, One Blackhawk Helicopter Squadron accompanied by an Infantry Protection Platoon, HQ UNTAC of 14 staff and the Force Commander, Australia’s Lieutenant General JM Sanderson AO. In May 1992 the AFP began contributing a 10 strong detachment to UNTAC to serve with the civil police component.

UNTAC was disbanded in September 1993.

A brief history of Cambodia
( from http://www.ing-web.co.jp/jcea/jccam04e.htm ):

Cambodia enjoyed her prosperity as the Foonan kingdom from the first century through the sixth, and as the Tchenla kingdom from the sixth century through the middle of the eighth, and in the latter half of the eighth century came under a brief occupation by the Jawa kingdom. She recovered her sovereignty from the Jawa kingdom in the ninth century, and thus came the extremely prosperous period of Angkor, under the Empire of Khmer which lasted until the fifteenth century.

Her capital, Angkor, had a large population of 70,000 to over 80,000 at the often invaded by Thai and Vietnam, and in 1863 was reduced to a protectorate of France, which was only the beginning of her suffering. In 1941, the Japanese Army advanced to her territory and consequently the French retreated, but with the surrender of the Japanese in 1945,the French came back to power. Under the leadership of King Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodian independence movement intensified, and on November 9,1953, she finally attained the full independence as The Kingdom of Cambodia. In the beginning, the government of the new kingdom took a neutral line in order to protect its independence from the pressure of the neighboring counties and superpowers, but in 1970, when Vietnam war was being fought in the background, a coup d'etat lead by then Defense Minister Lon Nol, who was known to be pro-American right-winger, marked the resumption of the suffering of Cambodia.

Lon Nol's government was soon ousted by Pol Pot's Regime, which immediately prevailed the reign of terror all over the country. The purge, which started by the executions of Lon Nol's ministers and politicians, was gradually expanded to include harmless intellectuals, skilled workers, and even children in the execution list. It is largely believed that an incredible one third of the entire population were massacred in the four years from 1975 though 1979.

Pol Pot's government was ousted by the invading Vietnamese Army and the rise of the Pro-Vietnam Heng Samrin's government, and Pol Pot's Army went into hiding in the jungles to start their guerrilla warfare. In July 1982, Pol Pot's Army, together with Sihanouk's group and Son Sann's group, which is a derivation from Lon Nol's group, established the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea ( renamed as the National Government of Cambodia in 1990 ), but the civil war went on and there seemed to be no end to it.

After 1987, the d'etente between the United States and Soviet Union paved the way for Cambodia to pursue ‚ peace however slowly. But the civilian toll from explosions of the land mines planted in excessive number during the civil war was constantly rising, and Cambodia was facing immense difficulties that included the arrangements to return her refugees to their original Land. In order to help solve the entanglements of Cambodia, the United Nations Peace Keeping Operations were launched from 1992. In 1993, under the surveillance of The United Nations, a general election was held, and ‚ new government was inaugurated, under whose leadership Cambodia is making her firm steps toward peace.

Australian, Malayasian Infantry

With Lt Paul Hobbs and Malaysian infantry

Human remains in the killing fields outside Phnom Penh

Ordinance found in the camp at Battambang

Accommodation in Siem Riep

UN vehicle taking train tracks when road was
unavailable between Takeo and Sihanoukville
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