Cambodian and Chinese peacekeepers refurbish blue barrels, ensuring better security
Long arrays of blue barrels dotted along the Blue Line – against the backdrop of beautiful natural landscape – seem picturesque. More than that, these UNIFIL-installed concrete structures serve a more virtuous purpose: prevent innocuous civilians inadvertently crossing the Line – the act that may otherwise put their lives at risk.
Since these markers were constructed in 2007, many of them needed refurbishment – due mainly to the natural wear and tear over the years.
That’s why, in 2020, UNIFIL peacekeepers from Cambodia and China – who undertake the onerous and perilous tasks of construction and demining across UNIFIL’s 1,060 square kilometres area of operations – started work to give a new lease of life to these more than 270 blue barrels.
Between November 2020 and May 2021, 203 out of 272 blue barrels, also known as Blue Line markers (BLMs), were refurbished. Most of the remaining BLMs were refurbished in the second half of 2021. However, four BLMs were not accessible due to demining operations underway in the nearby fields.
Captain Sok Sophat of Cambodia is one of the peacekeepers involved in this project. As a platoon commander, Capt. Sophat oversaw the implementation of the Blue Line refurbishment project along several stretches of the Blue Line during both campaigns.
In a recent interview, he said the refurbishment campaign was “very important” because, for UNIFIL, it ensures smooth patrolling and other operational activities in the areas near the Blue Line, and for local civilians, it means safety.
“Parts of the Blue barrels had been broken,” he said, detailing the work carried out. “We made new fences, new cut lanes (to access the barrels). I am very delighted to have accomplished this project.”
He also expressed his appreciation to the parties and various UNIFIL contingents for their support.
The history of these blue barrels goes back to the spring of 2007, when UNIFIL, together with the parties, started a project of visibly marking the Blue Line. The rationale was to provide clarity of the location of the otherwise invisible Line to the population and the troops on the ground, as a means to help avoid violations and inadvertent crossings.
At the time, UNIFIL estimated that, in order to have the entire 120-kilometre Line visibly marked, more than 540 markers would be needed to be installed. However, each point being marked is mutually agreed with the parties before a marker is constructed on the location.
Video editing: Zeina Ezzeddine
Cameraperson: Haidar Fahs
Article: Tilak Pokharel