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Malaysia takes 111 citizens home on special flight

Sun Mesa / Khmer Times Share:
Malaysian Ambassador waves at fellow Malaysians returning home from Phnom Penh International Airport, yesterday. KT/Siv Channa

The Malaysian government yesterday flew 111 stranded citizens back home on a chartered flight as the Kingdom confirms 96 positive cases of novel coronavirus.

Malaysian Ambassador to Cambodia Eldeen Husaini Mohd Hashim said yesterday the 111 Malaysians were stranded due to a lockdown in Malaysia over the virus spread.

“The reason why there are a lot of stranded Malaysians is because of the decision of the Malaysian government to impose a movement restriction order and so many flights back to Kuala Lumpur were cancelled,” he said.“That is why we had 111 Malaysians here. The embassy took the initiative to coordinate and call all of them and make sure everybody was safe, had accommodation and food available.”

Mr Eldeen Husaini said his government managed to arrange a special flight to carry them from Cambodia.

The Malaysians at the Phnom Penh International Airport. KT/Siv Channa

He reiterated that  the flight back was because of the vast cancellation of flights.

“Basically they are tourists. They were stranded and they needed to fly back, not because of the COVID19. It has got nothing to do with that. It is because their flights home were cancelled and there were no other ones available,” Mr Eldeen Husaini said.

According to the Ambassador, all 111 were a group of tourists who came to visit Cambodia from March 15 to 20.

One of them Amir Bin Junus, 76, said before departing he was stranded in Cambodia after the Malaysian government locked down the country and flights were cancelled. Stating that he, along with the others were well treated and taken care of by embassy staff, Cambodians and fellow Malaysians.

“No, I was supposed to go back on March 20 but unfortunately, the flight was cancelled. So we had to stay for another two days to board a flight on March 22, but unfortunately that flight was also cancelled, he said. “I contacted our embassy and we asked them for help which is why I am here today.”

Zul Hasnan Najib, 66, another Malaysian in the group, admitted he is afraid of being infected by COVID-19 but said his flight back was according to their schedule.

“No, it is our original itinerary. We were scheduled to return to Malaysia on March 20. However the flight was not available. Then we had to extend our stay and today with the assistance of the ambassador, we have the chance to go back to Malaysia,” he added.

Prime Minister Hun Sen announced during a meeting with health practitioners who have volunteered to help combat the pandemic, the number of cases in the Kingdom is now 96.

With the two new cases, the number of confirmed cases in Preah Sihanouk province rose to 36, he added.

Among the 96 cases, 10 have recovered – eight Cambodians aged between 33 and 71, a 60-year-old Chinese tourist and a 65-year-old British tourist.

Since the first case was detected in Preah Sihanouk in late January, the pandemic has now hit 13 provinces and the capital.

Mr Hun Sen also said yesterday the government is considering requesting King Norodom Sihamoni to place the country in a state of emergency.

“I am considering to ask the King to place the country in a state of emergency,” he said. “If this happens, civil rights will be affected.”

Mr Hun Sen said the government will not close markets, restaurants and small shops amid the pandemic.

“Some people urged me to close all, including small shops such as coffee and food shops. If we close all shops, how can we live?” he added.

However, Mr Hun Sen said Cambodia will cancel all international events either in or out of the Kingdom due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Cambodians return from Malaysia. KT/Siv Channa

“I order the cancellation of sending all officials to overseas events and international events in Cambodia. If we continue, the participants will face difficulty in travelling,” he said. “Asean has already decided to cancel its summit and we are considering cancelling the Asem summit as well if the situation is still difficult. We can delay to 2021.”

Council Ministers spokesman Ek Tha said yesterday: “Cambodia is not in the state of emergency now. What Prime Minister Hun Sen meant is he thought to possibly seeking legal counsel, in the event of a worst case scenario concerning the COVID-19, to possible impose an emergency in the country,” he said. “But, I do not think such a scenario will take place given the fact Cambodia is concerned institutions are doing well in coping with the issue.”

Meanwhile, six Cambodians who were stranded in Malaysia amid the lockdown arrived in Phnom Penh yesterday.

They took a Malaysian Airline flight and landed at the Phnom Penh International Airport  yesterday evening.

Two of them are students studying in Malaysia and two others are tourists who had transited in Malaysia after returning from South Africa.

Upon his arrival in Phnom Penh, Try Panha, a 25-year-old student, said that he and his friend were stranded in Malaysia due to the lockdown.

“I was stranded due to the lockdown,” he said, adding the Cambodian Ambassador to Malaysia visited him and his friend at their homestay.

“They were nice to us,” he said.

The six are being quarantined at Chak Angre Krom Health Centre in Phnom Penh.


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