Press Briefing By Samdech Techo Hun Sen, on Novel Coronavirus related Pneumonia in Cambodia [Unofficial Translation]

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CNV:

“Overreacted Fear” Coupled by “Poisoning News”

Today I have the need to make a verbal speech to Buddhist monks and compatriots on latest development relating to threat of novel coronavirus in our country. What happened in the last few days has been more of an overreaction to fear than fear about the novel coronavirus itself that began in Wuhan, Hebei of China. We may ask if there has been anyone, local or foreign, who dies of the disease in Cambodia, beside this case (of a Chinese infected) we have found in the province of Sihanouk. However, why have our people been under so much mental pressure? The true sickness that has happened so far is emotionally overreacted fear coupled with news that poisoned society […]

Unprofessional Journalism

The region or world had faced a number of diseases so far. The difference now is the fact that there were no Facebook accesses to provide poisoning information. As everyone has access to Facebook (or generally online media), many used it improperly […] a VDO clip of a young girl at Preah Sihanouk province working at a casino crying “help me God” was posted by the president of performance artists association – Heng Long. It was supposed to be concerning the coronavirus incident […] minutes later, the young girl posted another one herself clarifying she has not been sick and posting the previous clip would cause her trouble […] Heng Long removed the clip and apologized. K01 (information) team also did an improper reporting too. If they are present here, they should review their attitudes over the reportage that they did (at the Russia hospital), and ask themselves if it was an act of professional journalism? […] their action in making the reportage created fear among people who have no information of what happened. People fear because they believe poisoning news/information from irresponsible news/information outlets […] we must not place ourselves under a psychological war leading to loss of confidence in each own individual, family and/or country […]

Human Right Watch Deputy Director Should Reprimand Government in His Country

The matter is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Health and the spokesperson has done a very good job […] I think I need to take this moment to give some more insights to what we have been doing and continue to do to provide information and suggestions to institutions as well as to our people […]. Last night, a foreign radio broadcast in Khmer language quoted words of a deputy director of Human Rights Watch (Asia Division) that the Royal Government of Cambodia should be reprimanded for allowing planes from Wuhan to land in Sihanouk province bringing infectious disease to Cambodia, while in his own country, there was also this virus infection case. I think he should reprimand his government and not the Royal Government of Cambodia […]

Banning Flights from China Troubles Economy and Relations with China

While posting news causing fears among our people, there come two suggestions to me. Firstly, (Cambodia should) ban all flights from China to the country. This suggestion was nothing but a measure to kill national economy and to scale down Cambodia’s relations with China […] in fact the government of China has taken high responsibility not only for their people but also for the world. As we know it, flights banned not only within China but also to other countries. They also closed train activities to refrain from possible spread of the Wuhan virus to other locations […] measures taken by China have been high before their people. The Chinese foreign minister also had to postpone his visit to Cambodia to stay in the country to help deal with the challenge […]

The Chinese government acted responsibly on this […] closing air connection with China would trouble the country’s economy because you all know that many Chinese businesspersons and investors come to Cambodia, and many of them do not have anything to do with the sickness. That would only frustrate Cambodia’s service sector. That is on one front. On political front, it (would be seen as an act to) scale down relation between Cambodia and China.

No Evacuation of Cambodian Citizens

I do not care about who would think what, as some countries already moved their people out (of Wuhan or China) […] Cambodia would not resort to that measure […] the second suggestion to me was to evacuate Cambodian students in China to Cambodia […] while living and studying in China, they are in China’s care and responsibility. I have concern on news that some of them have returned at this time […]. News has been they come to Cambodia because they are at their terms breaks. Anyway, I urge them to ask for permissions from their universities/schools […] should we decide to move our students out, China would have marked our behavior toward her. In good time, we are with them, and in bad time, we abandon them. China has 1.4 billion population and they live in their country, why we dare not? […]

No Evacuations in Japan and South Korea

We may look into two examples – one in the case with Japan and another with South Korea. You may have remembered about earthquake related nuclear fuel leakage incident (in Fukushima, Japan). There had been suggestions to move our diplomats out provisionally. I instructed then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to inform (Cambodian diplomats in) Tokyo to stay put and respect guidance provided by the Japanese government. We must not abandon Japan in such difficult time […] if Japanese people can live, we also can. We also raised some money among our people as a token of friendship for Japan […] the money was not much but our hearts for Japan matter […]

South Korea has been a second experience. The North declared it would wage war and warn foreign diplomats to leave South Korea. There had been requests from our people who have their children working and living in South Korea, and some opposition circles, to evacuate Cambodian workers out of the country […] my decision was if the people of South Korea can live it, we also can live with them. They have measures to help their people […] what we did was to live in it with people of South Korea. We shared with them good and bad times […] as for the case in China there is no need for evacuation […]

Recommendations

[…] we have swift reactions from many working groups and the news came […] Minister of Health, HE Mam Bun Heng certified to me that there has been one case found. I replied instructing him to share the news. It is normal to have Prime Minister’s decision on such delicate issue. We have nothing to cover up. We got the news out and we have this press conference today […] as Prime Minister I have followed the issue and allowed competent institutions to take actions […] to carry this through, let me appeal to our people on the following points:

Firstly, please do not overreact to fear because it would waste our time to do whatever you have to. We can avoid infections through exercising hygiene and sanitation in our way of living, eating, traveling, and working, etc. Each individual and each family must learn to protect him/herself and themselves. This would help us protect ourselves not only from novel coronavirus threat but also from other viruses […]

Secondly, provide and share the truth (true information) to people. As I mentioned earlier, once again I thank the media outlets who are quite professional and responsible in providing and sharing the truth. They have provided the truth countering to those that are fake and poisoning society […] let me stress here that credible information must come from the Ministry of Health. The Ministry must be leading in providing news for that matter, not the Quick Reaction Unit (of the Council of Ministers), the Ministry of Information, and/or institutions that are not in charge by law […]

Thirdly, ensure normal functioning of state institutions, private companies, factories, enterprises, Buddhist pagodas, mosques, and churches, etc. […]. We have pursued a model principle that we agreed and implemented in ASEAN in 2003 when we fought against SARS. Anyone found to be sick in a particular country, the host country must cure her/him until s/he fully recovered before allowing her/him to return to wherever s/he needed to go […]

Fourthly, schools/learning institutions must focus on creating confidence for students and their parents, and/or supervisors, (so that they) send their children to schools, and exercise measures to ensure hygiene and sanitation in schools of every level […]. As I appreciate the fact that many parents and/or supervisors send their children to schools despite rumors of fear […] I hope that those who feared sending their children to schools should resume sending them. Your children needed to be in school or they would be left out […]

Fifthly, (one) should wear a mask whenever and wherever necessary. I said whenever and wherever is necessary. For instance in this press conference, I have no need to put on a mask. You may observe that at the airport, most European tourists wear no mask […] they know about the virus […] some of us have overreacted and put on one not even when it is necessary. However, I would put on a mask and other required dressed when I had to see my mother in law who, even after being discharged from hospital is still in an ICU room at home. That was and will be necessary […]

Sixthly, people dealing with selling masks should not jack up the price. It was quite sad that some mask sellers increased the price. I am calling in people who sell mask to take no advantage from this circumstance […] I am calling on factories to help produce masks and sell to the state or help people who are in real need […] we must be prepared in case the incident of disease and need to protect ourselves would prolong […]

Seventhly, service sector must ensure normal functioning without discrimination – either from air or water transportations as they are relating to airports, seas/rivers ports, hotels and transportation means. Should one opt for closing air connection, one would not close only with China but in many other countries (where the novel coronavirus cases found) […] one good thing about Cambodia seemed to be the fact that though they may be fearful but they continue to travel […]

Eighthly, Cambodian diplomats, consular officers, and students working and studying in China, those in Wuhan especially, must continue their presence there and join with the people of China in the fight against this disease outbreak. We must not abandon the Chinese people in this difficult time. Our ancestors have a saying for us all to learn – “We love each other in time of need. We know who is a good friend in time of difficulty” […]./.

Questions and Answers in the Press Conference on Coronavirus in Cambodia [Unofficial Translation]

Doem Ampil[…] my apology for the mistake yesterday. I have two questions relating to this issue. First, has the Royal Government prepared any amount of fund in this unforeseeable period that we are fighting to prevent the outbreak in Cambodia? Secondly, Would Samdech create any ad-hoc commission to monitor and assess possible impacts on socio-economic condition and tourism industry of Cambodia?

Samdech Techo: Thank you for your apology […] now the first question, how much money are we going to spend? Well, I do not disclose how much but I would assure you the Royal Government would spend as much as it is required […] however, for the moment, it is not yet time for the Royal Government to do so. The budget allocated to the Ministry of Health is sufficient to cover demanding expenses. On second point, I do not wish to make repetitive remark about setting up commission to deal with this or that. In the early part of the fifth legislative term of the Royal Government, I dissolved many commissions as they caused lack of responsibilities among institutions designated by law. The Ministry of Health must stay ahead in taking up respective responsibilities. Concerned institutions too, such as environment, police, etc. […]

As for possible economic impacts, we have a mechanism in place to do monitoring and making assessments. They will look into relevant issues and would foresee impact of growth […] Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy and Finance, HE Aun Pornmoniroth would lead this work […] in my over 35-year experience holding office, dissolving commissions around the Council of Ministers was the best chance for reforms. Justice takes over judicial reform. Public Function takes over reform of public administration. Reform of the army goes to the Ministry of National Defense, for instance. Public financial reform has increased revenue from custom is almost 1 billion USD […]

I do not need to tell HE Mam Bun Heng of what to do […] he takes up his responsibilities for instance whether there needed to install (scanning machines at entry points) or not […] he has the power in his sphere of technical expertise. As for how much money we would need to spend, I just tell you we go wherever it may take. That is easy to understand […]

Fresh News: […] as of this moment, has the RGC prepared to take any parts in cooperation with the government of China to help relieve its hardship?

Samdech Techo: we must continue to follow up but I am of the opinion that the Chinese government exercise high responsibilities. Prime Minister Li Keqiang was at the epicenter himself […] as to how do we go about contributing to China’s fight, I think is what we are doing here. We do not need to ban flights or shipping transportations from China, turn away Chinese tourists, and/or evacuate diplomats and students from China. We do not do that means, for we do not add fear to the Chinese people […] I do not think China would need our money to help them. We just make sure we are providing good cooperation with the Chinese embassy in Cambodia to create a good environment for Chinese investors and tourists […] and refrain from any discrimination there may be […] more so, should we ban flights from China, as I said earlier, we put our economy and relations with China in trouble […]

Hang Meas[…] besides posting untrue information by individuals […] what the Royal Government would do to bloggers and/or media outlets that are sharing fake news?

Samdech Techo: I think the educational measure is more appropriate than legal ones. What I mean is not about prison or any sort like that. I even provided my lawyers to protect the media people who have factual and legal appropriateness. However, Facebook and or outlets of some sorts are not fully qualified as a press organization. We have no need to go for punishment as long as they confess their mistakes. Educating them would be the best option. Those who falsify facts and poison society with their works are mostly from abroad […] let me recap what I said, the best measure is not by legal mean at this stage as long as they confess what they did wrong and correct it. We must opt for professional education and provide them with fuller information from relevant ministry, and in this case the Ministry of Health, to make them well-informed media persons on the matter and share the truth to people to reject fake ones […]

Thmey Thmey: […] what are Cambodia’s expertise in treating (the infected Chinese) to recover? […] people do not seem to trust in treatment […]?

Samdech Techo: Well, let us stay here. I may ask you, the fact that (you said) people do not have trust (in the Ministry of Health or medical expertise of Cambodia), has there been anyone sick yet? (…) if there has not been anyone sick yet, why talking about people having no trust? That was what you have added to it. The fact is not one Cambodian in Cambodia is sick (from this) yet, why talking about trust, when there has not been treatment yet.

Now, I am answering to your question. As of now, the World Health Organization and the world as a whole have not identified its cause […] there is no vaccination for it. In this case, we have only two methods to deal with it. Firstly, we must prevent it from spreading and there are instructions about hygiene and sanitations […] we used to say in health “to prevent is better than to cure.”

Secondly, should we find one with this sickness, we must put her/him in isolation, where s/he will receive medical treatment and care […] with journalists, it has always been my ways, if they posed me unreasonable questions, I ask her/him back with a question. Among our 16 million people, no Cambodian is sick from this yet, why do we have this question about people do not seem to trust (Cambodian medical treatment?) […] people should trust in themselves and make their bests to protect themselves […]

PNN: […] a majority of people lack information (about coronavirus). Has the Royal Government, mainly the Ministry of Health, have sufficient tools and equipment like in other countries to prevent and fight against this virus?

Samdech Techo: We have talked a lot about this already […] we have taken precautionary measures to respond to whatever may come and that including also our proactive one that I appeal to factories to help produce masks in reserve to distribute to people […]. Well, we have in store our measures to deal with the matter. We have put into operation those measures and we are in control of the situation. If our people, some have been overfed with fear, focus on how to protect themselves, it would have been a major contribution, indeed […]

To (Thmey Thmey reporter) I am sorry that I cut you in with my responsive question […] I just wish to reaffirm on your point that the world has not yet identified what sickness it is and vaccination would take months to get one as it take a long lab process […]. Let us agree on the fact that this is the time that we must apply defense strategy. Should anything happen, we must follow the precedent (medical) procedures […] you may have done a great help if you just say in your reportage that people must trust first in themselves […] if we are not sick yet, how could we say there is no trust in the Ministry of Health or medical service […]

Well, I am taking no more questions. I hope that relevant institutions and sub-national authorities take jointly effective measures especially those media organizations must be more active in their works. I would recommend those (official and professional) media organizations to defeat fake news with true/official news […]. Any one TV or media station do that I would consider issuing it/them with a letter of appreciation on 14 January 2021, when we have regular gathering between Prime Minister and media people […]. You must seek verification or confirmation from the Ministry of Health before releasing information, or even conduct interview with designated person so that your information giving out helps clear people’s mind from fake news […]./.