During a meeting at the Peace Palace yesterday, Prime Minister Hun Sen responded to criticism from an unnamed radio station thought to be Radio Free Asia.
A page on the station’s website dated November 13 said: “A Hungarian cabinet member who tested positive for COVID-19 after travelling to Cambodia, setting off a quarantine of hundreds of Cambodian officials, was asked by the Phnom Penh government not to wear a mask while taking part in a signing ceremony last week, a member of his staff said Friday.”
“COVID-19 is now destroying us and requiring us to live in a new way, and this situation will continue for a long time. Obviously now we all wear masks,” Mr Hun Sen said, while acknowledging that in the past he did not wear a mask.
He explained: “But now, here, if you all wear masks, what else do I need to wear? But I have my mask. But when I started talking, if I was wearing a mask, I could not speak clearly.”
Mr Hun Sen called on the public not to blame the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade because he is a good friend of Cambodia.
He said he was proud to successfully manage and end the “November 3 incident” through an immediate and effective response.
He said that even though the “November 3 incident” restrictions have been lifted, people still need to practice COVID-19 safety measures and respect the “new normal” way of life.
Mr Hun Sen also said that Cambodia is ready to provide medical aid and supplies if an outbreak of COVID-19 occurs in Timor Leste. Currently, Timor Leste has 30 cases of COVID-19.
Cambodia is now providing help to Myanmar and will use three planes to airlift masks and medical equipment there today.
On November 16, Cambodia donated two million face masks and some medical supplies to Laos.
Mr Hun Sen said he did not care about recent public criticism over Cambodia providing the masks and medical assistance to Laos and Myanmar, because Cambodia has carried out many humanitarian activities, including dispatching peacekeepers overseas under the United Nations umbrella, noting that Cambodia is a small but big-hearted country.
Mr Hun Sen recalled the humanitarian gesture to allow the cruise ship MS Westerdam to dock in the port of Preah Sihanouk province in February, and dismissed claims that he did it to please the United States because he did not know the ship was American.
Meanwhile, Cambodia has logged one new imported COVID-19 case of a Nepali man, 37, raising the tally of infections to 307, with two new recoveries. He is now receiving medical treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh.
The Health Ministry said the two new recoveries are men who tested negative for the virus twice after their COVID-19 treatment.
One is a Cambodian, 34, who flew from Japan, and the other is an American, 68, who arrived from the United States. Both were discharged from the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital on Tuesday.
To date, 307 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the Kingdom since January, with 298 recoveries and nine others still under treatment.
In related news, 128 Cambodian students were finally able to return yesterday from Israel after being stuck there due to the global pandemic.
Koy Kuong, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that all 128 students graduated with a degree in agriculture.
“They returned to Cambodia [yesterday], at 6am, by a direct flight from Israel to Cambodia,” he said.
He added: “[Today], at 10.45pm, the return flight will transport another 250 Cambodian agricultural students to study in Israel.”