The United Nations formally announced the appointment of Nepali Army Maj Gen Purna Chandra Thapa as the Head of UN Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced Thapa’s appointment. Maj Gen Thapa has also been given the role of the Force Commander of the UNDOF. He succeeded Ltd Gen Iqbal Singh Singha of India, who completed his assignment on January 2.
According to Nepal Army’s Directorate of Public Relations,Thapa would leave for Golan Heights to assume his new responsibility soon. He is appointed for an initial one-year term, which could be extended for additional two years, said NA sources.
The UNDOF was first established at the Golan Heights, a tricky border area of Israel and Syria, in May 1974 with a ceasefire between Israel and Syria. Nepal is a major troops contributing country to the UN peace missions, with about 4,300 soldiers for the fifth position. “The Nepali Army has taken the responsibility which is given as a high-recognition of our contribution to world peace,” NA’s Department of Public Relations said. “We believe the post would be helpful to promote Nepal and its people’s image internationally.” This is the first time a Nepali Army officer is appointed in a high UN peacekeeping position since 2008. Due to the alleged involvement of human rights violations during the decade-long Maoist insurgency, Nepali Army officers were sidelined in higher UN positions.
Retired Lt Gen Balananda Sharma, who had served as UNDOF Force Commander for three years, said Thapa’s selection was an indication that the UN has started taking Nepali Army more positively, mainly after the successful induction of former Maoist combatants into the national force.
Earlier, four Nepali Army officers — then Lt Gen Krishna Narayan Singh Thapa (Iraq-Kuwait), Maj Gen Victory Rana (Cyprus), Maj Gen Balananda Sharma (Golan Heights) and Maj Gen Pawan Jung Thapa (Sudan) — had served as force commanders of UN peacekeeping missions. In the appointment announcement, the UN said Thapa brings to his new position extensive command experience and knowledge of peacekeeping attained through service at the national and international levels.
Prior to his appointment, Thapa was the Master General of Ordnance at the Nepali Army Headquarters. He served with the Nepali contingent in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon twice, in 1986 and 1989, as United Nations Military Observer in the United Nations Protection Force in 1994 and was the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee of the United Nations Mission in Nepal from 2009 to 2011