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Cambodia’s carelessness over coronavirus could bring disaster

Greeley Pulitzer

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Cambodia’s carelessness over coronavirus could bring disaster | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Cambodian PM Hun Sen greets passengers from the MS Westerdam last week - Reuters
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When passengers from the MS Westerdam disembarked in Sihanoukville, Cambodia on Valentine’s Day last week, it was smiles and handshakes all around, as Prime minister Hun Sen greeted them with roses. Protective masks were nowhere to be seen. Not only did the PM not wear one, his bodyguards ordered people wearing masks to take them off. The next day, the US ambassador to Cambodia, W. Patrick Murphy, who brought his own family to greet the passengers streaming off the ship, also went maskless.

“We are very, very grateful that Cambodia has opened literally its ports and doors to people in need,” Murphy said.

But after the hundreds of passengers had alighted, one tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. Now, health officials worry that Cambodia may have opened its doors to an outbreak, and the world may pay a price as passengers from the cruise ship head to their home countries. Fearful governments in five other countries had already turned the ship away, even though the cruise operator, Holland America, assured officials that passengers had been carefully screened.

Hun Sen’s decision to allow the ship to dock appeared to be a political move as much as anything else. The region’s longest-serving ruler and a close ally of China, he is known for his survival skills. But critics worry that the aging autocrat might have acted rashly.

“Of course, he had to do the dictator thing: photo op, roses, exploit this for its maximum value. Whatever is in the best interest of Cambodians is completely irrelevant to him.”

When the Westerdam docked in Sihanoukville, the Cambodian government and the cruise operator deemed the vessel virus-free. But the declaration appears to have been premature. Only 20 of the 2,257 on board were tested for the virus before disembarking, and that was because they had reported themselves to the ship’s medical staff with various ailments. The 83 year old American woman who twice tested positive after travelling on to Malaysia was not among those 20.

Cambodia's carelessness over coronavirus could bring disaster | News by The Thaiger

Passengers from the MS Westerdam disembarking in Sihanoukville last week – AFP

It’s too early to tell whether the decision to let hundreds of passengers from the Westerdam fly off has the makings of an epidemiological disaster. Cambodian health authorities say that 409 of the 2,257 passengers and crew have left Cambodia for their homes around the world. The rest remain in hotels in Phnom Penh, the capital, or on the ship.

Many health experts urge people who have been in contact with coronavirus patients to self-quarantine for 14 days, to avoid danger of contagion. But yesterday, Hun Sen directed officials in Phnom Penh to treat passengers from the Westerdam to a sightseeing jaunt.

“To tour the city is better than staying in rooms or at the hotel feeling bored or scared,” said a post on Hun Sen’s Facebook page.

There is widespread scepticism of the government’s contention that only one person in Cambodia has tested positive for the virus, a Chinese citizen who has since returned home.

“There is a natural lack of credibility and trust associated with the Cambodian government. This is Hun Sen’s Westerdam problem, because even if he was doing the right thing, purely as a humanitarian, he will be seen as the puppet of China.”

Also yesterday, Hun Sen announced another publicity stunt: he wants to invite the passengers of the Westerdam to a party.

Masks won’t be welcome.

SOURCE: The Bangkok Post

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Biker

    February 18, 2020 at 6:08 pm

    Was due there for a visa run earlier next month not sure what to do now can’t believe hos silly that was .

  2. Avatar

    bruce

    February 22, 2020 at 11:10 am

    Cambodia is doing practically no testing. Further, the state of testing is questionable.
    3000+ people from wuhan flew to Cambodia while they were “deciding” wether they should quarantine .
    I don’t think anyone knows what the severity is in Cambodia. One would guess that it’s basically an incubation site.

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Stranded migrant workers can stay and work in Thailand, for now

Anukul

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Stranded migrant workers can stay and work in Thailand, for now | The Thaiger
PHOTO: khmertimeskh.com

Today the Thai Labour Ministy is allowing stranded workers from Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar to stay and work beyond the expiration date of their work permits, due to the recent closure of their borders.

Labour Minister Mom Ratchawongse Chatumongol Sonakul says that the migrant workers are allowed to continue with their work until the borders reopen.

“This decision will benefit 108.586 migrant workers. They consist of 44,222 workers brought into the country to work for 4 years, based on memorandums of understanding with neighbouring countries, and 64,364 workers who hold border passes and work in border areas on a daily seasonal basis.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Sa Kaeo closes 19 Cambodian border checkpoints – Covid-19

Greeley Pulitzer

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Sa Kaeo closes 19 Cambodian border checkpoints – Covid-19 | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The Nation

Despite denials only days ago, all 19 checkpoints in the eastern province of Sa Kaeo, two permanent and 17 temporary, along the border with Cambodia will be temporarily closed in a bid to stem the spread of the Covid-19 coronivirus. Thai health officials announced a new total of 599 cases. Read that story HERE.

The order, dated yesterday, signed by governor Voraphan Suwannus, is effective from Monday (tomorrow) until April 5.

Under the order, all persons and vehicles are forbidden to travel in or out through these checkpoints, with the exception of goods vehicles and pushcarts and their operators.

This morning from 10am, Voraphan, was scheduled to hold a meeting with Um Reatrey, the governor of Cambodia’s Bantey Meanchey province, to discuss measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus between the two border areas.

As of yesterday, 65 people in Sa Kaeo had been tested for the coronavirus. Of those, 47 tested negative, while 18 others were awaiting test results.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Thailand closes many of its land borders

Anukul

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Thailand closes many of its land borders | The Thaiger
FILE PHOTO: riderchirs.com

Interior Ministry, Anupong Paojinda, has given governors full authority to close all border provinces, but must leave one international checkpoint active for special circumstances. The move is the latest in Thailand’s attempts to block any arrivals to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, which has spiked sharply with new cases this past week.

“The only exception will be Chiang Rai as it borders with Myanmar and Laos and will be allowed to maintain one checkpoint for each country for general trade purposes.”

Key checkpoints to be temporary closed…

1. Thai-Mayanmar Friendship Bridge in Tak

Tak governor Anrasit Samphanrat, placed the order on Friday 20th that the closure of the first Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge as of today which will be closed until further notice.

The second Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge across the Moei River in Mae Sot district, which opened last October, will be the province’s only checkpoint open to travellers.

2. The Phu Nam Ron and Three Pagodas passes linking Kanchanaburi and Myanmar will be shut from today to April 3.

Kanchanaburi governor Jirakiat Phumsawad, ordered the temporary closure of the Phu Nam Ron (the main crossing on the route to Dawei in Myanmar) permanent checkpoint in Muang district and the Three Pagodas crossing in Sangkhla Buri is the main pass connecting Sangkhla Buri and Payathonsu in Myanmar.

3. The Ban Khao Din in Sa Kaeo, which will be closed from Monday to April 5.

Sa Kaeo governor Woraphan Suwannus, has ordered three closures of Ban Nong Preu temporary checkpoint in Aranyaprathet district, Ban Ta Phraya temporary checkpoint in Ta Phraya district, and the Ban Khao Din permanent checkpoint in Khlong Hat district from Monday 23 to April 5.

Only the Aranyaprathet checkpoint will remain open to connect the country with Cambodia.

According to the Thai News Agency of the Public Relations Department, Mukdahan yesterday halted ferry service across the Mekong River to Savannakhet province in Laos until April 20.

Checkpoints with Malaysia were already closed for all intents and purposes after the Malaysian government locked down the country for two weeks from last Monday. Malaysia has reported 900 Covid-19 cases, the most in Southeast Asia. Read more HERE.

 

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