Some 141 Malaysians who were stranded in Cambodia for several weeks because of flight cancellations caused by the COVID-19 outbreak finally flew back to their home country yesterday.
The flight, out of Phnom Penh International Airport and bound for Kuala Lumpur International Airport, was scheduled following negotiations between the Embassy of Malaysia in Cambodia and Malaysia Airlines.
The passengers comprised tourists and Malaysian nationals who had come to the end of an employment contract within the country as airlines, acting unilaterally, cancelled many flights in a bid to limit the spread of the virus.
Malaysian Ambassador to Cambodia, Eldeen Husaini Mohd Hashim, said that the nearly 150-strong group constituted the bulk of the Malaysian community who have endured a tense time since their initial flights were cancelled. He also admitted that the evacuation flight ¬– the third of its type to be organised for Malaysian citizens –was not the result of “overnight work”’.
“It took a lot of effort and negotiations between us, Malaysia Airlines, the Cambodian government and relevant authorities to get clearance due to the travel restrictions enforced by both Cambodia and Malaysia,’ Mr Eldeen Husaini said.
“I am happy that this is our third flight for Malaysians out of Cambodia. The citizens who are using this flight will, of course, pay for it since this is a commercial flight arranged by the government, especially to get them home. Hopefully, the lockdown in Malaysia which is supposed to last until April 14 won’t be extended any further,” the ambassador added.
Speaking to Khmer Times at the check-in desk, a man who wanted to remain anonymous, said he had been stuck after his work contract came to an end, and it was a stroke of luck that he secured a seat.
“I have been living and working here for just over a year now and only went to the embassy yesterday and found out about the flight,” he said.
Although accepting of the compulsory two-week quarantine on arrival in Malaysia, he confessed to being anxious about the mix of passengers on the flight.
“I and my colleague seized the opportunity to fly home, but I hope there is a segregation zone for any passengers who might be infectious,” he said.
Another Malaysian who works here said that he has been here for two years and is happy flying home.
Another man, Sabuga Valoo Lewis, who had arrived in Cambodia March 4 for a business meeting, was also relieved to be on the flight after becoming aware of it through the embassy’s Facebook page.
“Over the last few weeks, the Malaysian Embassy in Cambodia has given me all the support I needed, so I want to thank them, along with the company I work for, General Electric, for paying for the flight home,” he said.