Malbatt 850-1 Flies The Flag For Malaysia's Peacekeeping Tradition

From Muin Abdul Majid

MARAKAH (Lebanon), July 14 (Bernama) -- The land journey from the Lebanese capital Beirut to here took about two hours across a countryside dotted with lush banana, orange and olive plantations.

Throughout much of the south-bound route, apartment blocks and houses hugged the stony hills on one side while the Mediterranean beckoned on the other.

An army checkpoint along the way served as a reminder of the security situation in southern Lebanon which borders Israel whose regime has been widely condemned for launching deadly attacks against targets in the blockaded Gaza Strip.

The road became narrower as it snaked up and down the hilly terrain before the Malaysian Battalion (Malbatt) 850-1's Marakah Camp appeared.

The facility housing the 850 Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM) personnel under the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) banner was abuzz with activity in anticipation of the inaugural visit to the camp by Malaysia's Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Hishammuddin will be here to witness at close range the work and needs of Malbatt 850-1, a morale-boosting visit that coincides with the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

According to the minister's tentative itinerary, besides Marakah, Hishammuddin is scheduled to visit two other camps under Malbatt - Tibnin and Shamrock.

He is expected to break fast with Malbatt 850-1 members, whose stint under Unifil is from Oct 23, 2013, until Sept 28, 2014, and present Aidilfitri goodies to them ahead of the celebration at the end of this month.

The visit will also be marked by the inauguration of the 1Malaysia Monument at Marakah Camp's 1Malaysia Square and Hishammuddin's visit to the Unifil headquarters in Naquora.

Preparations for the visit aside, the Malaysian armed forces personnel marked the fasting month with what they would normally do in Malaysia -- having the pre-dawn 'sahur' meal and performing 'tarawih' prayers and other religious activities, with the Kawkaba Mosque located within the camp as the focal point.

Touting itself as a peace-loving country, Malaysia had sent its troops to far-flung corners of the globe under the wings of the United Nations to ensure that peace is maintained in trouble-hit spots.

No stranger to UN peacekeeping operations, Malaysia had deployed monitors and peacekeeping troops to places like the Congo, South Sudan, Western Sahara as well as Afghanistan, Bosnia and Somalia.

According to the Malaysian Permanent Representative to the UN Datuk Hussein Hanif, Malaysia had participated in some 30 UN peacekeeping operations with a total commitment of 29,000 personnel since 1960.

The ATM's involvement in Unifil began in 2007 following a 34-day conflict between Hezbollah fighters and the Israel Defence Force between July and August 2006 which saw over 1,100 civilians killed and 4,092 injured.

It ended with the UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which, among others, called for the world body to send in peacekeeping troops.

Malaysia's ATM subsequently deployed troops to Lebanon under various Malcon, Malcoy and Malbatt missions.

Resulting from the amalgamation of Malbatt and Malcoy in July 2013, Malbatt 850-1's Oct 23, 2013-Sept 28, 2014 mission in Lebanon is placed under Unifil's Western Sector.

A total of 51 municipalities in the sector come under Malbatt 850-1 whose members include several from the Royal Brunei Armed Forces.


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