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Travel ban violators should not be punished

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
Some people violate the government order on a week-long travel restriction. KT/Siv Channa

Interior Minister Sar Kheng  called on authorities not to punish anyone who flouts the government’s directive on a week-long travel restriction, saying they should instead be educated.

With the directive coming into effect since April 9, tens of thousands of people who were eager to leave Phnom Penh for their respective home provinces were blocked by police and military police officers on national roads leading to the provinces.

All national roads linking Phnom Penh to the provinces have been barricaded with checkpoints. Taxis, buses and family vehicles are banned from going through in a move to stem the spread of Coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking at a meeting at the Interior Ministry yesterday, Mr Kheng said implementation of travel restrictions faced difficulties.

“Regarding measures to ban people from travelling from one province to another, I believe we cannot implement it 100 percent,” Mr Kheng said.

“We do not allow our authorities to take strict action to punish those who violate the ban. We have called on them to just follow the order,” he said.

He said a few people managed to get away from the barricades and local authorities and went to their home villages to mark the government-cancelled New Year celebrations.

“Some people took a detour road, others travelled by vehicles, but when they were about 200 metres away from the roadblocks, they got off the vehicles and walked through the barricades, saying their houses were close by,” he said.

On April 9, Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a week-long ban on all travel across the country from one district to another in a move to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The ban was imposed on all domestic travel, including getting in and out of Phnom Penh, from one district to another and from one province to another.

However, all transportation of goods by land, water and air, ambulances of state and private hospitals, fire trucks, and vehicles belonging to armed forces and civil servants and dump trucks are exempted from the ban.

On April 10, Mr Hun Sen eased some restrictions by allowing inter-provincial travels.

He also combined Phnom Penh and Kandal province into a “single area”, in which people are allowed to travel freely except for crossing the borders into other provinces.

Kheang Phearom, Preah Sihanouk provincial hall spokesman, said yesterday local authorities also faced challenges in carrying out the order.

“At the border between Preah Sihanouk and Kampot provinces, we have noticed people were trying to go through small dirt roads, waterways and railway to avoid us. It is very hard for us to stop them”, Mr Phearom said.

Mr Phearom said local authorities are carrying out the government’s travel ban  responsibly.

“We adhere to the code of ethics and are very patient,” he said. “We educate the people about the safety and ask them to join hands to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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