Selected Special​ Message of Samdech Techo Hun Sen, on Order to Prevent Import of Covid-19 from Thailand, Thailand through Laos, and Vietnam; and Implementation of Sub-Decree No. 129 Dated 19 September 2015 on Health Measures to Prevent and Respond to International Spread of Diseases through Border Gateways [Unofficial Translation]

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CNV:

To His Excellency the Minister of Health, Excellencies, Lok Chumteavs, Ladies and Gentlemen, Provincial and District Governors, as well as Our People

Today, I have an urgent task to send a message to my compatriots regarding the strengthening of measures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. So far, we have scored our successes through proper quarantines, which prevented re-infection in the community or spread into large clusters because we did the right thing. Even though we used to experience the so-called November-3 community and the November-28 community pandemic outbreak, we had been able to prevent the spread from infecting larger clusters. It was possible because we had implemented proper quarantines.

Following the closure of the November-28 community outbreak (in Cambodia,) we are having this community outbreak in the Kingdom of Thailand that required us to intensify quarantine efforts along the Thai-Cambodian border. Next, seeing the spread in communities in northern, central, and southern Vietnam, we further strengthened measures along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border. Recently, seeing that some of our citizens working in Thailand have returned to Cambodia via Laos, we have also strengthened the censorship and control along the Cambodia-Laos border by seeking cooperation with the Lao People’s Democratic Republic since it was a risk to the Lao people as well when our Cambodians left Thailand via Laos and returned to Cambodia.

In general, we perform proper quarantines. The figures of those in quarantines along the Cambodian-Thai border as of last night were 35,665 people. As the quarantine period has been 14 days, some of them already left the quarantine centers. We still have 11,857 people in quarantines in seven provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border. The number is increasing every day. We are willing to accept this difficulty, even though we have tried our best to warn our people not to return in such difficult circumstances, but we are required to understand their needs to return (to Cambodia).

I appreciate efforts of the authorities along the Cambodian-Thai border, the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, as well as the recent Cambodian-Lao border in the north of the country. In addition to the large number of people who have exercised quarantine procedures, some of our people have fled the quarantine area and entered the country, which is something that we cannot fail to take legal action. Yesterday evening, in order to avoid the quarantine area and to escape the forces patrolling the border, one of our Cambodians crossed the border and stepped on a landmine in Banteay Meanchey province. If this continues, some of our people may even lose their lives if not permanent disability. The case of yesterday, the legs may have to be amputated. In addition, it may also transmit Covid-19 virus from abroad into the country, bringing us a new disaster too.

With this in mind, I would like to issue a regulation and seek proper implementation of Sub-Decree No. 129 dated 19 September 2015, titled “Health Measures on Prevention and Response to the International Outbreak of Diseases at the Border Gateways.” We had this sub-decree long before Covid-19 began, not at the time of Covid-19. Therefore, in order to ensure carrying out quarantines thoroughly, we must no longer ignore or overlook the implementation of the Royal Government’s legal documents. Previously, we applied some to those who escaped from the quarantine procedures on our Cambodian citizens who live in the United States, and entered the country and escaped from the quarantine centers. We only apply to just a few cases.

However, from now on, the Minister of Health should instruct the provinces to implement Chapter 5 about punishment. Article 8 clearly states that any passenger or transporter/driver of vehicles of any kind who avoids inspection by quarantine officials, fails to cooperate with the inspectors in implementing health measures or fails to comply with the procedures set out in the sub-decree shall be subject to transitional penalties from 200,000 riel to 1 million riel. The fine would depend on the size of the crimes and medical measures requirements. This transitional penalty does not free the person committed the crime from the criminal liability stipulated in the applicable criminal law and regulations. At this point, we must apply (the law) on those who refuse to have quarantines previously recommended by the Ministry of Health, because in the sub-decree related to Article 6, Chapter 3 on Health Measures, the procedure for implementing the health measures of the quarantine officer must be determined by Prakas (promulgation) of the Minister of Health.

Previously, the Minister of Health has already set the procedure for 14 days quarantine. Some of our people crossed border from Thailand and entered the country taking quarantine requirement, but back inside the country, which includes villages, communes, districts, up to the provinces, especially the people, do not let them stay without being in quarantines, which is a cause leading to transmission into the community. We were therefore able to locate them and send them into quarantines. We however have not yet implemented punishment measures. Therefore, I would like to request the Ministry of Health, as well as local officials, to implement Article 8 in relation to the transitional fines for those who avoid doing the quarantines. This penalty is a very minor measure if failing to do so would bring about a bigger problem related to (community) infection.

However, we consider this to be inevitable … I think that the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health should discuss with each other about possible amendments to Article 8 by increasing the amount of fines. This small amount makes those who have a decent income not afraid to pay. I am asking the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Justice and the Lawyers Council to look into other issues in order to either amend the existing sub-decree or issue a new sub-decree on health measures with further strengthening on the quarantine point to ensure effective implementation.

In addition, I would like to order all law enforcement officers to enforce strictly the masterminds who brought people across the border to escape quarantines. Last night, I issued order to the Battambang province and General Commissioner of National Police on information of releasing captured those guiding returnees to avoid quarantine. If found to have misused measures and/or involved in human trafficking, (the police officials) could face the removal of rank and/or the immediate dismissal. The smuggling of human beings is serious, which can lead to public health disasters caused by infectious diseases. I urge efforts to bring in those involved in bringing people across the corridor to face with convictions or instruct them to stop taking people across the border.

I would also like to order the provinces bordering Thailand, Vietnam or Laos to communicate with their provincial authorities. Last night, HE Governor of Battambang requested to communicate with the provinces on the Thai side. I welcome this initiative and we must pursued communication with them to seek their help in preventing people from (avoiding the quarantine areas on our side to) crossing the through the corridor, which endangers their lives, causing them disability or even infecting the country. Please do this work with the border provinces in cooperation against the prevention of Covid-19, and ask the Embassy, ​​Consulate, Labor attaché to the Cambodian Embassy in the Kingdom of Thailand to educate our workers who have to return about domestic practices regarding fines. Although the sub-decree has not yet been amended, a fine of up to 1 million riel ($ 250) will be imposed. It may be small for the rich but large for the poor. We must work to strengthen the implementation of health protection measures for our people.

Now comes the supply regime for those who are fined. In the past, we have supplied 20,000 riel per day to those in quarantines, which does not include drinking water or the addition of noodles and materials. Out of love and understanding, we continue to provide those fined persons with the same amount of money as those not punished. What is punishable is (their avoidances of quarantine procedures) that we require payment from 200,000 Riel to 1 million Riel. However, in order to provide you with a suitable place to stay, we still provide materials needed for quarantines, and 20,000 riels per day for food allowance. This is a favor for those who do not have food, no materials necessary for quarantines period, but they must pay the fines […]

As I said above, the Minister of Health should work with the Minister of Justice to increase the amount of the fine and look at other measures either in the amendment of the existing sub-decree or issuing a new one. Please note that our sub-decree dates back to 2015, five years before Covid-19 erupted, but with the understanding and tolerance, we remain silent (and did not) implement the measures under Sub-Decree No. 129 dated 19 September 2015 regarding this punishment. So from today, let us implement this measure. However, I would also like to emphasize that this measure does not affect the subsidy regime for the provocation, both the material and the provision of food for you […]

According to this sub-decree, there is also fee for exercising quarantines announced by the inter-ministerial framework between the Minister of Health and the Minister of Economy and Finance, but we do not aim services charges from our people. Except for foreigners who come to the Kingdom of Cambodia, (they are recently) required to pay some parts of the service charges. Along the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, and there may be more, seeing that some of our Cambodians went to Vietnamese side for medical examination, etc., and returned to Cambodia some days ago. However, we have observed that in the provinces bordering with Vietnam, we located people quarantined at the Cambodian-Thai border. This is a disaster. We do not know where at the Cambodian-Thai border they travel to the Cambodian-Vietnamese border […]

I would also like to emphasize that all those who have avoided quarantines must be interviewed. Like last night, in Takeo province … through an interview, we saw that at the Lem – Battambang’s border pass with Thailand, there were passers-by in areas where there are forces (that allow them to cross) and they were required to pay some money. Learning from this, we have to do all the interviews with those who have escaped quarantined at the border. They all must come for interviews without exception. Interviews had to be sent to the anti-Covid-19 task force for all of us to see in WhatsApp. We found out where they came from. The Preah Vihear province also conducted an interrogation only to find that there were Cambodians who worked in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province, then left for Champasak province in Laos, and then came out for Preah Vihear province in Cambodia.

We must have data at hand. Those who have not had quarantines (at the border) and (have) come inside, we locate them inside, and we must know where the border crossing point is and where to go from there. We follow them to the villages and take them to quarantines. This is for us to find out where we need to research based on the journey of someone with Covid-19 positive when we find someone with Covid-19. These are measures to ensure that within our country there is no recurrence of Covid-19 community outbreak.

This is an order that I would like to inform and through this order, there must be strict implementation. I am ready to go live on TV again to explain this story in detail, and call on our people to cooperate. In general, most of the people have carried out their parts on quarantines, but only a small number have committed offenses, and I will explain this to the people. The media may release both my voice and Sub-decree No. 129 together for wider understanding on the issue of strengthening the quarantine efforts for the people’s well-being. Thank you for your attention and hope for effective implementation. Thank you./.