Residents of Phnom Penh said on Friday that they were concerned about the health of Cambodians stranded in China, on account of the viral epidemic, and wanted the government to evacuate them from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.
More than 17,000 cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed across the world, with ever-increasing concerns over the health and economic impacts of the fast-spreading outbreak of viral pneumonia.
While multiple countries have moved fast to evacuate their citizens from China, especially Hubei province, where Wuhan city is located, Prime Minister Hun Sen remained defiant that Cambodians will not be evacuated.
He said that Cambodians, students, and diplomats, in China needed to show solidarity with the Chinese people and help them tackle the epidemic.
However, Phnom Penh residents on Friday suggested that it was preferable to bring back citizens to ensure their safety.
Standing at a bus stop along Russian Federation Boulevard, Lin, 22, said she would like for the government to bring back Cambodians stranded in China, saying it was better to observe their health in the Kingdom.
“I’m sure that general people would not agree with what he [Hun Sen] said, meaning that they don’t want them [Cambodians in China] to live in danger,” said Lin, who did not want to reveal her full name for fear of reprisals.
The Cambodian government has confirmed that 23 students were still in Wuhan, with around 80 other students returning to Cambodia during the Chinese New Year holiday. Hun Sen said last week that he would not close down air and sea routes with China, allowing Chinese nationals to exit and enter the country unrestricted.
Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told VOA Khmer that the government will follow the recommendations of Prime Minister Hun Sen and that there were no plans to evacuate Cambodians from China.
Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager at rights group Licadho, said last Thursday that Cambodians in China had a right to be safe and that the government should ensure they were not in danger.
“[If they think that it’s not safe over there, they can leave. It’s the rights of each individual,” he said.