Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday blocked the capital Phnom Penh and the nearby city of Takhmao in Kandal province after residents virtually ignored his recent order to lock up in two cities.
Hun Sen on Wednesday ordered the door lock to take effect on Thursday. But in a statement on Friday, he said people continue to travel outside of their homes with no regard for public health.
The two cities, home to about 2.3 million people, are currently isolated from the rest of the country for a 14-day period starting Friday.
“I urge the Phnom Penh and Kandal authorities to take the blockade seriously. Please declare those areas as locked areas. We have to follow the law without exception, ”Hun Sen said, warning that the close and containment could take even 28 days or more.
He also ordered the authorities to ensure that residents were not allowed to travel between blocked areas.
“We don’t lock everything up to kill people. The city officials are working to rescue the poorest people, ”Hun Sen said.
Residents in both cities said they could not obey the ban because they did not have enough food supplies.
“When people don’t have food, they are not afraid of getting infected. They have to think about their stomachs first. How long can he shut the country down? “Buth Buntenth, founder of the Network of Independent Monks for Social Justice, told RFA’s Khmer Language Service.”
He also urged the government to close the border with Vietnam.
A worker in a garment factory in Phnom Penh told RFA he was running out of food as the authorities provided nothing to prepare for the extended quarantine period, where he also had to pay rent and utility bills without payment.
“I do not know what to do. The authorities ignored us. I asked the government for help because I was in quarantine for 14 days. ”
At the Din Han factory where the worker worked, about 400 workers tested positive.
Morm Chenda, another worker, told RFA she didn’t have enough food, including not having milk for her baby. She also has to stand in front of mortgage payments.
“I am urging the government to allow us to return to work earlier because I am not allowed to delay my mortgage,” she said.
“I urge [the govt.] to allow us to get back to work earlier because I’m not allowed to delay my mortgage, ”she said.
National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun told RFA that since the most recent COVID-19 outbreak that began on February 20, at least 30 people criticizing the government’s response have been arrested for charges. moving.
But the spokesperson said arresting people for criticism related to COVID-19 was the last resort, used only after they started provoking about the COVID-19 vaccine, refusing to comply with the deadlines. preparation of COVID-19 and harmful to public health. He said the police had exhausted all options through fines and education, but arrest was still needed.
“We don’t know how long it will take to educate them, but before the law passed, we educated them for a while,” said Chhay Kim Khoeun.
Hun Sen welcomed the arrest in a message on his Facebook page. He urged authorities to detain anyone who violates COVID-19.
“We cannot allow people to gather, drink alcohol and refuse to obey the law. I am excited about the information that the abusers of the law have been brought to court, ”said Hun Sen.
Much of his criticism of the government’s response was that Cambodia used a Chinese-made vaccine, which the head of the CDC China admitted was less effective than two mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.
RFA reported last week that Hun Sen had ordered all civil servants to vaccinate China or be fired.
Ros Sotha, director of Cambodia’s Alliance for the Protection of Human Rights, says people are not aware that expressing their views on Chinese vaccines could be considered a crime in Cambodia.
“The people are not legal experts. They don’t know that what they say is a crime, ”he said.
Most people don’t know much about COVID-19 laws in Cambodia and lack information about vaccines, says Am Sam Ath of local rights group LICADHO. He called on the government to communicate more effectively about new laws and vaccines.
“Need clear information to prevent people from panicking. This will prevent people from falling victim to the exercise of their freedom of expression, ”said Am Sam Ath.
As of Friday, Cambodia has confirmed more than 5,000 fatal viral infections, with 38 fatalities according to World Health Organization data.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Language Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.