Selected Comments Samdech Techo Hun Sen, at the 41st Annual Review Meeting of the Ministry of Health [Unofficial Translation]


From text: Today, I am pleased to join with all of you to close the 41st annual review meeting to assess progress and achievements in health sector fulfilling the 2019 plan, while addressing both positive and negative points of the operation of health system, and setting directives and prioritizing action plans for 2020, and coming years […]


State Institutions to Save Back 50% on Expenses

My topic today is mainly on Covid-19. Please allow me to take this forum to talk about it and wider coverage concerned […] on 24 February, I already listed to our public measures to save our economy in time of crisis relating to tourism and garments/apparels for that matter. I also instructed the economic policy commission and the Ministry of Economy and Finance to envisage responses in the context of possible spread of Convid-19. This morning, I approved their list of responses. I am taking this opportune moment to share with you that every (state) institution will go about reducing their expenses up to 50%, except the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, of Trade, and the Council of Ministers who will exercise 25% cut. In this circumstance, not only that you may not ask for more but also working with less. We will maintain our expense on salary. There will be no reduction. We will not touch the current expense of over 400 million USD.

Preventing and Fighting Covid-19 – Cambodia’s First Priority  

As I said while presenting listed economic measures in time of crisis from Covid-19, we must scale down travels for meetings in foreign countries, […] and I will observe this instruction […] as for new investment projects, the ones have yet to launch must reschedule to a later dates, except those that are financed by foreign funding and Cambodia’s counterpart fund […]. We can wait until the Covid-19 stress is over. I am declaring from here today that our work will now, starting from the outbreak of novel coronavirus through to its final disappearance, preventing and fighting Covid-19 is the top priority job and we must all join hands in this effort. The subnational level, delegated tasks by the Ministry of Health, will also have to prioritize accordingly. They must scale down expenses on other sectors to focus on health. We must synchronize our actions […]

To Cushion Economic Impacts Sixth Months and/or One Year

We have different ways of predicting what would happen in term of illness and of economic impacts. The economic team have come up with a scenario that the Covid-19 stress would last up to sixth months. They have come up with outlooks to impacts on economy as a whole, growth pattern, and financial intervention needed. Secondly, for the same reason, they have extrapolated their calculations to one-year prolonged fight against the epidemic […] I learnt that the Ministry of Health has put together some ideas about this but I am asking for an assessment meeting to review considered measures to control unpredictable epidemic situation. For instance, should the epidemic happen in Cambodia and in a fast pace, what would be the best course of actions?

Ministry of Health to Assess Possible Course of Actions

I have declared in the press briefing (on 30 January) that the Ministry of Health must take the lead and, as of this moment, it still is. As Prime Minister, not a health specialist, I am ready to consider and make political, economic and financially related decisions […] let say if the Convid-19 breaks out in a province, what are our immediate responses. I did not ask you to come up with these measures before because I do not wish to place everyone in panic situation. I have thought about it though […] as of now, we can see that people are now familiar with the issue […] those who spread fake news are terrorists and they have spread fear not only in Cambodia, but the world over. […]

In China, they locked down Wuhan city and replicate to certain areas where they assessed quarantine needed. In case the scenario two happens, outbreak of Covid-19 is real, what are our measures to take on those places, patients and their families, and in case of quarantine, what sort of assistance could we offer them, etc. We have taken certain measures to help workers […] as of now, some 18,000 of them from over twenty factories, lost their jobs (because of interrupted supply of raw materials from China). Three hotels in Siem Reap (discharged) nearly 300 staff and they provided 40%, and the state offered them an additional 20% of their basic salaries […] as for the people at large, what would be the best course of actions? Shall we ask the Buddhist monks to cancel their weekly pray? The same for Muslim and Christians? We must look at and analyze these issues from medical, social and psychological aspects thoroughly […]

Westerdam Passenger Highlighted Cambodia’s Efforts

I have seen clarification made by the Malaysian Ambassador to Cambodia concerning the 83-years old American Westerdam passenger whom they Malaysian health authority claimed to have infected with Covid-19 […] it has come at the time that the Malaysian cabinet was no longer there (after Prime Minister) Mahathir resigned. We do not have to probe any further because, on another reason, the passenger is now in the US and she is not sick. This development could have provided an assessment on the Cambodian health system. Who have created such false information? It has dishonored Cambodia and placed thousands of people in continued misery […] however, I suggest that we probe no more because those responsible have all lost their jobs […] the important thing is it has highlighted our responsibility and care in accordance with instruction given by the World Health Organization […]

Sampeah or Greeting with Both Palms Raised Together Is Good

We must start from every individual and the whole country must be in action. Coming in here just now, I have tried it with Minster of Health, HE Mam Bun Heng, not to shake hands but to practice Cambodian way of greeting – Sampeah, greeting by putting two palms together and raising them to anywhere between chest and face, sometimes with a bow too. A professor wrote (to defend oneself from Covid-19) men should greet each other not with their hand shaking but a touch of the back of their hands […] no doubt that the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said to me “thank you for shaking my hands […]”. However, when I am going to meet the public, like on 9 March (for the inauguration of the national road 55), I cannot avoid being touched and embraced with/by our people. I am asking my bodyguards to let them do it […]

Encourage Domestic Consumptions

We are in this stage to fight against fake news. We are not in the time of fighting against Convid-19 yet. The fake news of all sorts about Covid-19 caused fear among people. Luckily, our people are now aware and do not succumb to fear and choose no discrimination in their ways of life […] let me affirm that this year, we will celebrate Angkor Sangkranta to draw our people to enjoy the Khmer New Year festivities. On 13-15 March, there will be river festival at Battambang province. I am inviting people to come. We are finding way to encourage domestic consumptions […] I thank TV stations for their concert activities in various provinces. This time of river festival in Battambang, I must stay their one night. It will be too late to return. I did not stay over last year in Kompong Chhnang […] let us go to Battambang. There are many fruits there. Let us work on local consumptions […]

A New Social Protection Policy Needed – Until Covid-19 Is Over

We are now, if we put it, in the first stage, where everything functions normal. We must work up stages of alert and action to second, third, etc. What would we do? […] I think, perhaps, by stage 5, we could call it an emergency […] impacts will be there to shake macroeconomics […]. With assessment of the Ministry of Health and calculations of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and besides helps offered to workers losing their jobs, what should we do, when/if the time comes, to help patients and/or families in quarantine for 14 days. It will be a new social protection policy in time of stress from Covind-19, before everything goes back to normal after it is over […]

Poor Nations Needed World Bank’s Help

Impacts have shaken the world now. The World Bank has just announced it is making available up to 12 billion USD […] to help countries coping with health and economic impacts of the Covid-10 outbreak. […] to look into this issue, it seemed that Covid-19 hit more rich nations – South Korea, Japan, in Asia, and Italy and Germany, in Europe, than those poorer ones. As Italy and Germany are G7 nations, they may not need rescue fund from the World Bank […] as for us and other poorer nations, if it happens, we will need such assistance to help save our economy. However, we are the ones that will help ourselves before anyone else could/would […]

Many Unknown Challenges

If nothing serious happened, we could save the money as well from our efforts. We needed fund not only to fight with Covid-19. We have more unknown challenges such as bird flu, other contagious diseases, natural disasters in form of drought and flood […] according to (Minister of Environment’s report) Say Sam Al, the other day, we have had some 7,000 bushfires […] as seen from satellite. Each one must be a size of one hectare or more for the satellite to pick it […] bushfire is not a matter only for Cambodia. Many countries in the world faced it – Indonesia, Malaysia, etc., especially in dry season. In the US, and recently in Australia. Luckily, rain came to help extinguish the fire […] we, as community, must protect the forest from fire. People should stop fire the bush to catch hares or tortoises, and even to leave ember in forest areas […]

Kroma – Effective Mask

I think it is a good time to educate our people about sanitation and hygiene. Spots on TVs about how to clean and disinfect hands and other body parts and use of masks or Kroma (a kind of scarf Cambodians take along with them) are good. I also used scarf/Kroma very often. In older day, walking across fields with smoke, I put on the Kroma around my nose and mouth walking through. It is an appropriate tool to use […] this should add more concept for the Ministry of Health to ponder and a message to our people that Kroma can be an effective tool to prevent infection and, let me remind you, greeting with both hands together up or Sampeah is one safe way to do […]./.