Workers from multiple factories in the vicinity of the Cambodian capital were infected with COVID-19 amid the country’s latest coronavirus outbreak, authorities said Tuesday, as people resisted the shutdown left them without food for days, forcing some to recklessly arrest them. get supplies.
Last week, the government executed a 14-day shutdown on all non-essential businesses in the capital Phnom Penh and neighboring Takhmao in Kandal province from April 15 to 28 and requested 2, 3 million residents of the two cities are subject to strict curfew or, in some “red zones”, stay indoors except in an emergency.
On Tuesday, the Phnom Penh city government said workers from more than 100 factories in the area were confirmed to be infected with COVID-19, a disease caused by the coronavirus.
Cambodia, which was virtually unaffected by coronavirus in 2020, recorded its first death from COVID-19 last month, a year until the day the World Health Organization (WHO) considers it a pandemic. Since then, 49 people have died and the country’s death toll has risen to nearly 7,500. Authorities on Tuesday recorded 431 new cases alone.
The sharp increase in infections prompted Prime Minister Hun Sen to issue a lockdown order last week, but residents of the “red zone” affected districts in Phnom Penh and Takhmao told RFA’s Khmer Service that they have yet to receive any of the promised food or supplies from the government. , despite the threat of arrest if they leave home.
Residents, mostly workers in garment factories and workers in the informal sectors of the country, are required to stay in their homes as part of the Friday emergency order and for know they are facing a serious shortage, even though Prime Minister Hun Sen has directed the authorities. to distribute goods regularly to households during closing times.
Garment worker Koeut Sinoeun, the mother of a 4-month-old child who rented a room in the red area, told RFA that she and her husband both lost their jobs due to the latest outbreak, which started in February, and now is out of food and milk because there is no shelter to order.
“I want [the authorities] pay attention to us, because we don’t have food to eat, ”she said, adding that she and her husband had not prepared enough because the door lock had been announced without prior warning.
A motorbike taxi driver who also lives in one of the red areas told RFA that his family barely had enough to live before the outbreak and had run out of savings.
“I have had nothing to eat for the past four days,” he said, pleading for help from the government.
In a post on his Facebook account on Tuesday, Hun Sen declined a previous pledge to give each family in closed-off areas 300,000 riel (US $ 75), stating that it is The government lacks the budget to do so, and promises to provide food instead. and rice. He also called for “patience” from the public.
Commerce Department spokesman Penn Sovicheat said three trucks were dispatched to deliver food to residents of the three red zones in Phnom Penh, adding that the ministry would sell necessities and food at a lower price. market prices and deliver them to people’s homes.
Other effects of the lock
Meanwhile, the authorities have threatened to fine anyone found to violate the ban between 1-20 million riel ($ 250-4,950) and fine them between six months and five years in prison.
Members of the public have complained that the fines are too high – a recurring concern of Cambodia’s Unofficial Economic Workers Association (CIWA) Chairman Sok Chhun Oeung, who also warned that many residents were not understand lockdown requirements and urge the authorities to educate the community before taking any punishment.
“The execution started as soon as the order was issued, which is not good,” he said. “I think the authorities should have a better understanding – let’s start with a warning.”
Despite public backlash to last week’s order, at least five people were sentenced to one year in prison for disobeying curfew and locking the door, while police used sticks and batons to chase and beat people wandering outside their homes, sources said.
In a statement a day earlier, the Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC), which represents factory owners, urged all stakeholders not to punish members of the if they are unable to achieve their production target due to the lock order, their field recognition is not essential.
“[In addition to factory closures] The shutdown also caused disruptions to the logistics sector and we were unable to freely transport raw materials and / or finished goods, ”the statement added that many employees of GMAC member factories reside in areas where they are not allowed to leave. Work.
“These factories cannot function properly… [which] This could lead to production delays as well as failure to meet previously agreed delivery schedules ”.
The shutdown also prompted two dozen civil society organizations to issue a statement over the weekend calling on the government to “raise vigilance and take action to stop all forms of violence against women and children. and LGBT + individuals are likely to occur during mandatory isolation and in closed order enforcement areas. “
They note that such measures may lead to “social and psychological consequences”, in particular an increase in gender-based violence, due to households facing financial and financial difficulties. adaptability to new, stressful and alcohol use situations, crowded spaces in field hospitals and quarantine centers or inaccessibility of households in locked areas.
The number of visitors is limited
In addition, the wives of former Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) officials and activists jailed on Monday expressed concern that their husbands could die in prison if they were prevented from coming. visit and take care of them due to locked coronavirus.
Seng Chantha, wife of former CNRP provincial councilor Kampong Thom Sun Thun, told RFA she had been unable to visit her husband in Prey Sar prison for more than 20 months. She said he suffered from nephritis, high blood pressure, acidosis, scabies, and poor health due to malnutrition.
“It was unfair for our family that we were not allowed to visit him during this difficult time,” she said. “The prison officials should let us contact him at least once a week over the phone, but we have absolutely no interest.”
Similarly, Chen Sovanna, the wife of former Svay Rieng province CNRP official, Chum Puthy, told RFA that she was deeply concerned that her husband could be infected in the overcrowded conditions of Prey Sar.
She said she had not seen Chum Puthy in more than three months since her baby was born and that authorities have now banned her from visiting due to the outbreak of the disease.
“I don’t know how many infected people are in the prison, so I can’t wait to see him,” she said.
“I want to know how he looks and feels, because my relatives told me he is very thin.”
Nuth Savana, head of the Ministry of Interior’s Prison Department, told RFA that Prey Sar’s landline was “about to be disconnected”, so the women would not be able to contact their husbands over the electricity. phone.
The head of local human rights group ADHOC Ny Sokha of Banteay Meanchey province said prison officials should allow the wives of the imprisoned activists to visit them as soon as possible to ensure that they are healthy and bearing. money for them to buy food, note that meals are served by the prison. lack of nutritional value.
The Supreme Court of Cambodia dissolved the National Rescue Party of Cambodia (CNRP) in November 2017 and banned its members from participating in political activities, two months after the arrest of party chairman Kem Sokha for His role was in an alleged conspiracy to overthrow Hun Sen’s government.
The ban, coupled with a broader crackdown on non-governmental organizations and independent media, paved the way for Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to gain all. 125 seats in the country’s 2018 general election.
Since 2020, nearly 100 political, environmental and social activists have been arrested and jailed by the authorities for expressing their criticisms of the government of Hun Sen.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Language Service. Translation by Samean Yun and Sok Ry Sum. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.