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Kingdom closes border with Vietnam over outbreak

Sun Mesa / Khmer Times Share:
A cross-border bridge connects the Chrey Thom checkpoint in Kandal province with Long Binh district in Vietnam’s An Giang province. Supplied

Protecting citizens amid coronavirus pandemic

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday shut down the border with Vietnam amid COVID-19 fears.

“We will be closing down the border [today],” Mr Hun Sen said. “This is not a response to Vietnam’s closure of its border with us.”

“Every official must seriously carry out the closure, especially provinces bordering with Vietnam,” he added. “The duration of the closure depends on Vietnam. They protect their people, so we need to protect ours because coronavirus also broke out in Vietnam.”

On Wednesday, Vietnam locked down its borders with the Kingdom and imposed a month-long entry ban to foreign travellers, except for diplomats. The country was adopting measures to protect itself from COVID-19.

Prime Minister Hun Sen. KT/Khem Sovannara

Vietnam’s border closure with Cambodia will last for 30 days and the ban also applies to travellers who had visited or transited in the United Kingdom, 26 Schengen countries and ASEAN countries in the past 14 days, including Vietnamese citizens returning home.

Mr Hun Sen said many Vietnamese citizens travelled to Cambodia in the past, noting 300 Vietnamese nationals on Wednesday crossed the Kingdom’s border.

“I would like to call on Vietnamese people in the Kingdom not to leave Cambodia,” he said. “Cambodians in Vietnam, please do not leave the country.”

The Foreign Affairs Ministry immediately complied with Mr Hun Sen’s order yesterday and wrote a letter to the Vietnamese embassy in Phnom Penh informing it of the border closure.

“Entry by Vietnamese nationals into Cambodia, [and vice versa] via land, water or air, shall be temporarily suspended beginning [today],” the ministry said in a statement. “This measure primarily aims to avert the inconvenience of quarantine requirements for both Vietnamese and Cambodian nationals.”

“[We] propose local authorities of the two countries work together to facilitate and ensure the travel of goods across the common border can be carried out without disruption,” it said.

Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said yesterday Cambodia is responding politely to Vietnam, but noted the Vietnamese government’s decision to shutter its border went “too far”.

The Bavet International Border Checkpoint in Svay Rieng province. Supplied

“Vietnam went too far with its decision to close the border without informing Cambodia,” Mr Phea said. “Vietnam does not value its relationship with the Kingdom.”

“This should not happen between Cambodia and Vietnam, who are traditional and close friends,” he added. “I believe the Cambodian government understands this political game and will not be tricked.”

Lieutenant General Leang Phearom, director of the Interior Ministry’s land border department, said yesterday the Kingdom’s other neighbours have not closed their borders.

“Until now, there has been no closing of the border with Thailand and Laos,” Lt Gen Phearom said. “People are going in and out as normal.”

Chrey Thom-Long Binh, the main entry point between Kandal province and Vietnam’s
An Giang province. Supplied

Men Kung, spokesman for Stung Treng province, yesterday said Laos has not imposed a border closure, but Lao authorities are checking the health of foreign visitors.

“Border activity is still normal – tourists and other visitors go in and out as usual, but there was an outbreak in Laos which prompted its authorities to conduct tight checks,” Mr Kung said.

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