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Chinese soldiers clear mines, win hearts

By  HU YONGQI  (China Daily)

08:51, April 22, 2013

Chinese peacekeepers of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon participate in a minesweeping mission. (LI QIANG / FOR CHINA DAILY)

Dangerous job earns gratitude from the people of Lebanon

One week after returning from Lebanon to his base in Yunnan province, Chen Dairong was still struggling with jet lag from the six-hour time difference. However, the colonel in the Chengdu Military Area Command showed no less enthusiasm when it came to teaching soldiers to clear landmines.

For the past nine months, Chen has led an engineering battalion sent by China to demine the Lebanese border with Israel, where thousands of landmines were left after the conflict between those countries in 2006.

Since that year, when he went on his first peacekeeping mission in Lebanon, Chen has encountered many perilous scenarios.

He was once assigned to escort supply trucks on their way to aid Indian peacekeeping soldiers. On the trip, the trucks stopped suddenly as there were two bombs in their way. Knowing the Indian soldiers urgently needed supplies, Chen didn't hesitate to jump out of the truck and defuse the bombs while everybody else retreated to safety.

"My experience told me the bombs would blow up if I touched the detonator," he recalled. "It was horribly quiet, and I could hear my heartbeat."

After an anxious 20 minutes, the other soldiers were thrilled to see Chen defuse the bombs.

"Then I sighed for a long time as my clothes were soaked in sweat. You can imagine how nervous I was," he said.

The 11th International Day of UN Peacekeepers falls on May 29 to commemorate the contribution of peacekeeping soldiers to the safety of conflict-prone countries.

Chen, who has been dispatched to Lebanon to perform UN peacekeeping missions three times, is one of the 1,342 Chinese soldiers that have been sent to Lebanon in the past seven years.

During that time, Chinese soldiers participating in six peacekeeping missions in Lebanon have cleared 1.96 million square meters of land on which mines were suspected to have been laid. The soldiers detected and disposed of 3,063 landmines and 15,673 unexploded pieces of ordnance. They also built 320 km of highway and provided medical service to 20,000 residents.

"The peacekeeping soldiers have shown their determination to safeguard peace for the world, especially in conflict areas. They have set an outstanding example for Chinese soldiers to win honor by providing international assistance. Their conduct should be encouraged," said Zheng Daoguang, deputy director of the political department of the Chengdu Military Area Command, one of the eight military zones on the Chinese mainland.

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