First Bhutanese in UN Peacekeeping Mission

RBA/RBG: In a historic move for the country and armed forces, Bhutan is now participating in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions.

Two royal Bhutan army (RBA) and one royal body guards (RBG) officers recently left the country to serve as peacekeepers in the Middle East and Africa.  They will don the distinctive blue beret or helmet worn by UN peacekeepers and serve under the UN flag.

RBA lt col Ngawang Jigme has been assigned as a military observer to the UN truce supervision organisation (UNTSO) mission in the Middle East.

RBG lt col Kinley Wangdi and RBA major Ugyen Wangchuk will serve as staff officers with the UN multidimensional integrated stabilization mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).

The government has decided to participate in UN peacekeeping missions, as an indication of Bhutan’s commitment to the maintenance of international peace and security, it is pointed out in a foreign affairs press release.  It is also participating as a “responsible member” of the UN, it is added.

The UN has no military of its own and depends on member states to provide the military and police personnel for peace operations on a voluntary basis.

The government will continue to contribute personnel for peacekeeping missions.  Initially, it is only offering military observers, staff officers, and individual police officers to the UN.

It is pointed out in the press release that Bhutan will gradually build its national capacity to contribute and “participate effectively in UN peacekeeping missions”.  This means that Bhutan could one day be sending troops too.

His Majesty the King granted an audience to the three officers prior to their departure.  His Majesty the King said to the officers that they must represent the country by discharging their duties professionally and with the highest standards of excellence, it was stated in the press release.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay also met with the officers.  Lyonchhoen said that Bhutan’s ability and willingness to contribute tangibly to international peace and security represents the coming of age and growth of the country.  He said that, as the first Bhutanese peacekeepers, expectations of their participation are high.

He also said that it was a proud moment for the country and reflects Bhutan’s long-standing support and commitment for the UN, and its obligation as a member of the international community to respond to crisis and humanitarian disasters.

A ceremony was held for the officers where army chief, lt general Batoo Tshering presented the officers with tashi khadhar.  Lt Gen Batoo Tshering also told the officers to set a good example and inspire respect and admiration for the country.

“The UN’s acceptance of peacekeepers from Bhutan at two of its most strategic peacekeeping missions is an important milestone for the country’s contribution to international peace and security,” said UN Resident Coordinator Christina Carlson.

“The newly established peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic will play an important role in stabilising the security situation in that country, including protection of civilians and recent events have highlighted the continuing importance of the UNTSO military observers in the Middle East region.”

Based on statistics available on the UN website, there were a little more than 97,900 military experts, troops, and police from 123 countries deployed for peacekeeping by the UN, as of August this year.

The region is an active contributor to UN peacekeeping operations.  As of August, Bangladesh had 8,455 personnel deployed, India had 8,104, and Nepal had 5,191.

Countries contributing uniformed personnel for peacekeeping operations are reimbursed by the UN at a standard rate of a little over USD 1,028 per soldier a month, according to the UN peacekeeping website.

Each member state is legally obligated to pay their respective share towards peacekeeping.  The UN general assembly calculates how much a member state has to pay using a complex formula, that takes into account, the relative economic wealth of the country, among others.  The five permanent members of the UN Security Council pay more than other member states, given their standing in the UN.

United Nations peacekeeping began in 1948.  Since then 69 peacekeeping operations have been deployed.  Currently, there are 16 peacekeeping operations taking place.


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