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Hun Sen Says Malaysia Maligned Cambodia Over Positive Westerdam COVID-19 Test


File: Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, center, gives a flower to a passenger who disembarked from the MS Westerdam, owned by Holland America Line, at the port of Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Feb. 14, 2020.

Cambodia consistently questioned the positive COVID-19 result, with a representative for the U.S.’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seemingly backing Cambodia’s claims in a USA Today interview.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday demanded that Malaysia explain and take responsibility for the damage it had done to Cambodia’s reputation, again questioning the positive COVID-19 test for an American passenger aboard the Westerdam cruise ship.

The government initially allowed passengers to disembark the Westerdam cruise ship on February 14, which had been denied entry by at least four other ports. However, one of the American passengers aboard the ship tested positive for the virus in Malaysia, raising concerns over Cambodia’s screening of passengers.

Cambodia consistently questioned the positive COVID-19 result, with a representative for the U.S.’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seemingly backing Cambodia’s claims in a USA Today interview.

“It damaged our reputation and dignity. Some think that it is not a big deal, but Cambodian citizens don’t think it is [a small issue],” said Hun Sen during a meeting of the Supreme Consultative Council.

While the Cambodia tested only 20 people aboard the cruise ship initially, the positive test in Malaysia prompted authorities to test all remaining passengers and crew members, totaling almost 2,000 people. Also, neighboring countries banned entry for Westerdam passengers questioning the quality of passenger screening.

Last week, Malaysia said that the 83-year-old American woman had tested negative, five days after being diagnosed with the virus. The Cambodian Foreign Ministry challenged the initial positive test claiming the recovery period was too accelerated.

Hun Sen said Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn had been asked to meet with the Malaysian ambassador in Phnom Penh to get clarification over the test results.

VOA Khmer could not reach the Malaysian embassy in Phnom Penh for comment.

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