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Cambodia almost sealed off after borders close

Sun Mesa and Sok Chan / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
The Prum International Checkpoint in Pailin province. Fresh News

The Kingdom yesterday found itself almost sealed off  after Thailand and Laos closed their borders amid coronavirus fears.

This comes following the suspension last week of several cross-border activities between Cambodia and Vietnam.

On Wednesday, Vietnam made the decision in light of the escalating COVID-19 pandemic.

Travel by citizens between both countries – by road, water or air – was subsequently banned from 11.59pm on Friday.

Lieutenant General Leang Phearom, Interior Ministry’s border protection police department chief, said yesterday the borders with Thailand and Laos are completely closed.

The closure of the border with Thailand takes effect from today and the one with Laos came into force yesterday.

“All the border crossings in 19 places, including the international border checkpoint with Thailand are closed. They are the international border checkpoints at Poipet-Banteay Meanchey, Phnom Chy-Battambang, O’Smach-Oddar Meanchey, Prum-Pailin; 15 regional border checkpoints in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey; and two districts border checkpoints in Battambang and Banteay Meanchey,” he said.

“All cross-border activities, including people movement, are affected but the exchange of goods at the international border checkpoints will be allowed after truck drivers are thoroughly screened for coronavirus,” Lt Gen Phearom added.

The Cambodia Consulate in Sakaeo province, Thailand and the Banteay Meanchey provincial administration yesterday confirmed the closure of the border between Cambodia and Thailand.

In a press release yesterday, the consulate said the measure was to curb the spread of COVID-19.

It encouraged Cambodians living in Thailand to take precautions against the virus by practicing good hygiene, wearing face masks and avoiding crowded places.

The Banteay Meanchey provincial administration said in a press release yesterday the border ban will take effect from 6am today until 10pm on April 5.

“All people, traders, tourists and cart pullers won’t be allowed entry,” it said. “If there is any medical emergency, the two authorities will work out procedures according to the previous agreement.”

Interior Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak said yesterday only the land borders between Cambodia and Thailand and Cambodia with Laos are closed.

General Department of Immigration spokesman General Keo Vanthan said 400  migrant workers returned from Thailand yesterday.

“All the 400 migrant workers are in self-quarantine for 14 days and will check their temperatures,” he said.

Men Kung, spokesman for Stung Treng province, said with the closure of the border, Cambodia will lose benefits especially tourists who travel from Laos.

“It will affect our interests because now the number of tourists will drop,” he said.

Soum Chankea, provincial coordinator with rights group Adhoc in Bantheay Meanchey, said the prices of imported goods will go up because of the border closures and Cambodia will be unable to export items such as agricultural products to Thailand.

He noted small traders and cart pullers are the most vulnerable from the closures.

“People who live at the border depend on selling or buying products from Thailand to sell in Cambodia and are affected by the closure,” he said.

Chan Sophal, director of the Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), said the move will affect the economy strongly because all of the borders around the country are sealed.

He said even though products are allowed to be exchanged, the mechanism to do so is very strict.

“This border ban will affect the economy strongly and our people will feel the effect of higher prices because most household products and food are imported from neighbouring countries,” he said

 

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