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Send off for Westerdam passengers amidst COVID – 19 scare – from Cambodia with love

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times Share:
Passengers boarding the bus on the first part of their long journey home. KT Chor Sokunthea

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday welcomed hundreds of passengers who left the Kingdom to depart to their countries. The others were granted permission to visit Cambodia.

Mr. Hun Sen arrived Preah Sihanouk Autonomous Port about 6:00 am and immediately started welcoming all passengers and crew from the MS Westerdam, which docked in Sihanoukville.
He said that now all be allowed to disembark after medical tests showed that none of them are infected with COVID-19, or commonly known as coronavirus.

The ship docked at Sihanoukville Autonomous Port yesterday morning and none of the passengers and crew were allowed to disembark after reports that 20 passengers had fallen ill, some with stomach aches and others with flu-like symptoms had surfaced.

“Today I allow all people on the cruise ship to disembark and visit Preah Sihnouk province and Siem Reap province if they want,” Mr. Hun Sen.

Adding that even though Cambodia is a poor country, Cambodia participates with the international community to address issues in regional and the global front.

“I would like to tell our whole nation the reason why I decided to allow the cruise vessel to dock at Cambodia territory,” and “As I have said, the real situation of Cambodia is that the country is coronavirus free but it is the fear factor,” he said. He said that no-Cambodian people have been infected by the virus.

“The most scary disease would be fear and discrimination,” Mr. Hun Sen said.

“We have questioned that if there is coronavirus disease on cruise ship, would Cambodia allow the vessel to dock?

“I can give clear answer that even if there was a patient on the ship I would allow the vessel to dock as soon as soon as possible. The point is, are we going to let these patients die on the ship, and then throw their bodies into the sea?” he asked.

“I would like to send a clear message to the Cambodian people and international community as well that now is not time to be fearful or discriminate but it is the time of us to show solidarity to tackle the challenges [Covid-19],” Mr. Hun Sen said.

“Today, if I come here to greet 41 nationals of from other countries and risk myself, it is because of the desire to show my sacrifice for all humanity,” he said.

“How we can talk about respecting human rights issue while the rights of living isn’t respected? he asked.

“Cambodia commits to respect human rights as a priority and first [we] have to respect the lives of more than 2000 people onboard the cruise ship,” Mr. Hun Sen said.

A Canadian national, Ralpm Passmore, from Toronto said that he is very happy and grateful to the Cambodia government for allowing ship to dock.

“I think it is indeed wonderful that somebody had common sense to realize that we didn’t have a problem on the ship and allow us to get home,” he said. He added that today he will board a flight from Phnom Penh International Airport to Thailand and Hong Kong.

“It is my first time in Cambodia and I will surely come back if there is a good opportunity on another day,” Mr. Ralpm said.

“I take this opportunity to say to you as that common sense and humanity prevailed in Cambodia and took us in when others had just turned us away with paranoia of coronavirus but you have treated us well,” Passmore said.

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