Op-Ed: The Silent Killer, COVID-19, Means Much for Cambodia & the World

Prime Minister Hun Sen, of the Royal Government of Cambodia, has done his best in the fight against the deadly Covid-19 since the silent killer landed on this Southeast Asian nation in January 2020. Our concerned institutions, especially the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other partners, has sought to cope with the disease.
Neither Cambodia nor the rest of the world have a magic bullet to deal with disease, they have used approaches of prevention, treatment, and vaccination, along with promoting nationwide public awareness of preventive measures; yet still we have not defeated Covid-19.
I do believe that the majority of the people understand the risk of Covid-19, and the need for social distancing and isolation but one solid reason that drives many to leave their home is to earn a living, such as taxi drivers, market vendors, workers in the garment and construction industry. I strongly support the government’s move of greater regulations with penalties, but do need to understand the challenges it presents for many of our people.
Everybody recognises that there is no way to get rid of the virus right now. It is a matter of either containing it or slowing it down. It is an issue made more complex by the appearance of new variants of the virus.
No-one can tell where the virus is situated on the one hand, and the new variants of Covid-19 spread faster than originally thought, on the other.
Poor restriction and the lack of law in the past to control quarantine facilities was partially blamed for the inability to reign in the spread of the disease.
Even with the newly adopted law enhancing health measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and other vicious, and dangerous contagious diseases, I still doubt if we can get rid of the virus any time soon.
At time of writing, 11 people, including Cambodian and foreign nationals, have lost their lives to the disease, according to the Ministry of Health report on Mar. 31 2021. Community spread of Covid-19 continues to be a great concern given there has been no sign of decrease since the third outbreak on Feb. 20 this year.
More than 60 new cases have been detected within the community spread, mostly in the capital and the coastal province of Preah Sihanouk, on Wednesday. Total cases recorded 2,440 infections, including more than 1,190 recovered and more than 1,230 hospitalised.
The government invested millions of dollars, with support from China and WHO, to secure millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccines and has so far inoculated more than 400,000 people with more to come.
At the same time, several hundreds of medical staff, including volunteers, have been dispatched to the 25 provinces and capital to speed up the vaccination for the people in 300 centers.
Covid-19 has had powerful impacts and shocked the world, changing our lives forever. It has emerged as a top political and diplomatic agenda, as I observed. Some allowed the virus to hurt friendship, others blame one another over the outbreak of the virus, it even led to racial discrimination and physical attacks in some countries. Such ‘blame-throwing’ is wrong. Instead of putting the blame on each other, the world community must join hand to fight the virus – no one wants this killer in place. As of Mar. 30, there have been 128 million confirmed cases, 72.3 million recovered, and 2.79 million deaths globally, according to WHO.
COVID-19, vaccine diplomacy
Cambodia also provides vaccinations for foreign diplomats and foreigners who live and work in the Kingdom because they are parts of Cambodia’s cluster. We are like one big village, if any one of us gets hit by COVID-19 and spreads it, others will hurt as well. Cambodia’s move reaffirms its commitment to join hands with the global community to fight the virus. It shows the small Kingdom of Wonder still bears a big heart.
Although, we will never know when the virus will disappear. Bear in mind that nothing lasts forever in this universe, it is a matter of when. We can’t wait, however, for the Covid-19 to mount an attack on us as we are facing today. We, of different walks of life, keep fighting it.
Since the arrival of the silent killer, Covid-19 in late 2019, on this blue planet, it has hurt the world in many ways from tourism, trade, to investment and social life, from economic status to cultural and traditional ways of life, and education.
Things will never be the same again
As I penned this piece, there was no new updated reports on the country’s tourism, trade, and investment, although everyone knows that it is inevitably down, but it remains unclear to some extent.
Cambodia, like other countries has no exception. We share the same suffering from the same virus because we are global interconnected. Public and private entities have been interrupted by the spread of Covid-19, although they survived by the adoption of available technology, which enabled the world body and state actors, as well as private sector, to keep their businesses afloat although it was not as good as they want it to be.
And much more than that – the disease also shaped some countries’ domestic politics, and even diplomacy.
Phnom Penh has had to suspend more than once its plans to host the 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) on Nov 16-17 in Phnom Penh under the theme “Strengthening Multilateralism for Shared Growth”. Cambodia has to delay it to later this year from its second plan in mid-2021. The summit will be the country’s biggest, historic international event, with the participation of government leaders from 51 countries and two regional organisations (ASEAN and the EU).
Cambodia’s inoculation for foreign diplomats and foreigners in the future sends a powerful message to the outside world that, once the majority of the populations of 16 million, receive vaccinations, it will also convince foreign diplomats, who attend the ASEM, that Phnom Penh is safe enough to visit and work.
We can be proud that we have met the challenges, the crises and unpleasant surprises of the past year, we have shown the world that small though our modest Kingdom may be, we have a heart big enough to change the world.
By Ek Tha
Spokesman of the Office of the Council of Ministers,
Advisor to the Ministry of information,
Standing-Vice Chairman of the Royal Government Spokesperson Unit

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press