By Van Ngoc – Translated by Kim Khanh
|Vietnamese officers are doing their bit for peace by working in some of the harshest living environments on Earth|
On April 9, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) officially granted a decision of the state president to Major Nguyen Phuc Dong from the ministry’s Vietnam Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
Dong will head to the United States to work for the 2021-2023 tenure at the Department of Peace Operations (DPO) at the United Nations headquarters in New York. The DPO is charged with the planning, preparation, management, and direction of UN peacekeeping operations.
Dong is the third Vietnamese military officer admitted into the DPO, where he will work as a military trainer. The first was Lieutenant Colonel Luong Truong Vinh, who was also admitted to the DPO to work as a general planner, while the second – Lieutenant Colonel Tran Duc Huong – is a planning advisor.
Elsewhere, at the launch in Ho Chi Minh City of the Level-2 Field Hospital (No.3) two weeks ago, dental technician Major Bui Thi Xoa spoke of her duty to UN peacekeeping operations in South Sudan, a nation she has already visited once.
In the first 14-month period in South Sudan, Xoa and her colleagues braved harsh weather conditions and a lack of water and food, as well as medical equipment – the same conditions badly affecting the livelihoods of local people there.
“We have had to overcome all of these difficulties. We grew our own vegetables and had to be very careful not to catch any diseases,” Xoa said. “For this second time, I feel more confident when it comes to South Sudan. My colleagues and I will do our best to accomplish all duties that the Party, the government, and the Vietnamese people have assigned.”
The Level-2 Field Hospital (No.3) was established in March 2020 with 70 staff, 18 of whom will travel to South Sudan for the second time.
Vietnam’s participation in UN peacekeeping operations is a major policy of the Party and state and also a step towards realising the country’s policy of intensive and comprehensive integration into the world.
According to the Vietnam Department of Peacekeeping Operations, between June 2014 and the end of 2020, Vietnam sent 179 officers and employees from the MoD to UN peacekeeping missions in South Sudan and the Central African Republic and to UN headquarters in New York. They consisted of 53 officers deployed individually and 126 doctors and medical workers deployed at level-2 field hospitals. Vietnam is also preparing a team of over 300 sappers to join UN peacekeeping operations this year.
Vietnam’s contributions to UN peacekeeping activities have been acknowledged by the international community, UN organisations, and international and non-governmental organisations in the host countries.
Vietnam’s active participation in UN peacekeeping operations has helped assert the Party and state’s foreign policy of multilateralisation and diversification of external relations, independence, self-reliance, and respect for the UN’s goals and principles, thereby contributing to the building of sustainable peace.
Vietnamese officers have been praised for their professionalism, disciplines, dependability, and adaptability. The UN also selected Vietnam as the first training centre for international peacekeeping activities in Southeast Asia.
Last November, the 14th-tenure of the National Assembly adopted Resolution No.130/2020/QH14 on participation in UN peacekeeping forces, which will take effect on July 1.
The prime minister has issued an implementation plan that identifies the responsibilities of and assigns tasks to ministries and government agencies to ensure that the resolution will be carried out in a timely, concerted, uniform, and effective manner.
Lieutenant colonel Nguyen Thi Lien
I was the first Vietnamese military female officer to have worked as a training advisor at the UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). On March 12, I returned to Vietnam after a prolonged stay due to the pandemic.
My main task is to work with colleagues to organise training courses on improving new skills for new staff at MINUSCA. Undertaking the duty in June 2019, my colleagues and I have faced numerous difficulties, especially in the context of the pandemic. The country is very weak in infrastructure development, coupled with a grave lack of medical equipment and tools and limited awareness of people. In order to cope with the pandemic, we at MINUSCA always paid due attention to protecting our health via enjoying proper and nutritious foods. Due to unfavourable weather conditions, we have had to drink much water and eat many vegetables cultivated by ourselves.
We have always encouraged one another to stay optimistic and implemented safe hygienic measures to prevent community contamination. Meanwhile, there is no habit among local residents of wearing masks. We still wore masks but covered our faces with larger handkerchiefs in order to avoid discrimination from locals.
From the fact that Vietnam has been doing a very good job in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, I came to the thought that the face mask is a very effective shield and an “amulet” during the pandemic times in a nation very poor in medical equipment. To realise my idea, I went to a local’s home to hire a sewing machine, and then went to the market to buy cloth and elastic bands. I selected cloth with colourful patterns which suited locals’ traditional taste. After working hours at MINUSCA, I found myself making face masks.
Being an unprofessional needlewoman, initially I could not make many products. However, day after day the number of masks gradually increased, while the number of COVID-19 victims also ascended.
By that point, the country’s government under consultancy of MINUSCA issued a directive ordering all people throughout the nation to wear masks at public places from May last year. Around 800 masks I made personally were then presented to locals and MINUSCA staff. They have become a very significant gift in the context of urgent prevention and fighting against the pandemic in such a poor nation.
Major NGUYEN PHUC DONG
When I was a child, I always dreamt of becoming a military officer. In 2004, I passed the examination into the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) Military Academy of Logistics. In 2009, with my good study record, I became a lecturer at the academy. After a time, I was sent to the United States to study.
With big aspirations to make more contributions to the army and work in an international environment, in 2007, I was admitted to work at the MoD’s Vietnam Department of Peacekeeping Operations. After one year of working here, I was selected to become one of two military officers to work as peacekeeper in South Sudan in 2018.
The day I set off for South Sudan was also Vietnamese Teachers’ Day. My wife is an English teacher, and I understood that my wife would have to work hard to feed the family. My first child was only five and the second was only six months old at that time.
South Sudan is the youngest nation in the world as it declared independence in 2011. Its political situation remains unstable with many conflicts and unfavourable weather conditions. Though before going there, I had studied the country very carefully, I was still surprised when I arrived.
South Sudan was characterised with underdeveloped infrastructure and shabby houses of the local residents whose lives depended on support from the United Nations. Almost all children have no schooling and suffer from malnutrition, while the nation is completely undermined by civil wars.
The main duty of UN peacekeepers is to protect civilians, create a favourable environment for humanitarian assistance, supervise and inspect human rights violations, and support the implementation of peace processes. During my time in South Sudan, I partook in days-long patrols by air, by road, and by waterway, of hundreds of kilometres a day.
In many cases, the patrols faced lots of difficulties because many other forces showed no cooperation and even caused great difficulties to our work. Danger was always on the watch. For example, one month before I came to South Sudan, one comrade had been shot and made the ultimate sacrifice while on duty.
However, in defiance of the dangers and difficulties, my colleagues and I will not be deterred, and we will give it our best to accomplish the tasks that we have been assigned in order to keep peace in the world.
By Nguyen Dat