Prime Minister Hun Sen is committed to visit Cambodian students in the locked-down city of Wuhan, China today despite the World Health Organization’s international public health emergency declaration over the spread of the Novel Coronavirus but the Chinese government has rejected his request for permission to do so.
According to Fresh News, Mr Hun Sen said yesterday the Chinese government could not arrange for his visit to the city.
It said Mr Hun Sen who is in South Korea for the Universal Peace Federation summit in Seoul will return to the Kingdom today and will try to visit the students when possible.
Koy Kuong, spokesman for Ministry of Foreign Affairs, yesterday told Khmer Times that Mr Hun Sen did plan to visit the students in Wuhan city of Hubei province.
“But since the Chinese authorities are busy responding to the virus outbreak, they are unable to arrange his trip,” he said. “So the Chinese government requested the Prime Minister to visit Beijing so that they have enough time to prepare for his trip.”
“Samdech [Hun Sen] replied that if he is unable to visit students in Wuhan now, he has a busy schedule in the Kingdom and will return to Cambodia,” he added.
In an earlier post on his Facebook page yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said he will visit the students in Wuhan.
“I have already told to the Chinese government that I will go to visit the Cambodian students on February 5,” the post said. “This visit is to encourage them not to fear them the coronavirus.”
Mr Hun Sen will end his visit to South Korea today after a working lunch meeting with his South Korean counterpart Chung Sye-kyun, to boost cooperation and relationship between both countries.
On Monday, during the meeting with the Cambodian community in Seoul, the Prime Minister said he wanted to visit the students in Wuhan although WHO on Thursday declared a golbal health emergency in the over the spread of the Novel Coronavirus.
The city late last month was locked down by the Chinese government. While some foreign countries have evacuated their citizens out of China, Cambodia is adamant about not letting the virus affect its relationship with China.
Mr Hun Sen said some social media users have been facetiously urging him to visit the Cambodian students stranded in Wuhan.
“I would like to respond to those who said Hun Sen should go to Wuhan city if the Chinese government allows it,” he said. “You do not have to mock Hun Sen. Hun Sen dares to fight in a war and make sacrifices, so why say Hun Sen would not go to Wuhan to visit Cambodian students there.”
Mr Hun Sen then reiterated the government has not suspended flights to China, although the Chinese government has Wuhan airport on shutdown.
He said the government will not evacuate Cambodians living in Wuhan because he believes the Chinese government has placed measures to protect people in the city.
The Prime Minister also met Hak Ja Han Moon, UPF co-founder in Seoul yesterday and said that the coronavirus spread is not only China’s concern but also the world’s.
“[Just like] climate change, the coronavirus outbreak does not only concern China but the whole world and we need to solve this issue together,” Kao Kim Hourn, Minister attached to the Prime Minister quoted Mr Hun Sen as saying. “I won’t regard coronavirus as an obstacle but I want to join with world leaders to settle all issues plaguing the world such as climate change and others.”
According to media reports, there are more than 20,000 cases of the coronavirus and about 420 deaths in China.
The Ministry of Education said yesterday that 23 Cambodian students are living in seven dormitories in Wuhan city while 66 from there are home in Cambodia on vacation.
“All the students who are living in Wuhan are healthy,” it said.
The ministry said that Chinese universities are offering food for the Cambodian students and some of them buy food near their campuses.
It said it has provided a total of $11,500 to help the Cambodian students in Wuhan who are staying in their dormitories.
The ministry on Monday said it had created a WeChat group to communicate with the students in Wuhan.