Prime Minister Hun Sen called on China Wednesday to airlift raw materials to Cambodia to keep the garment sector in the country working through the coronavirus epidemic that has stifled industry and travel around the region.
Hun Sen’s appeal, made at a speech in the presence of China’s ambassador, came as Southeast Asian countries continued to struggle with the impact of the COVID-19 sickness on their economic ties with China and the thousands of citizens living there or in coronavirus-hit South Korea.
Cambodia, whose textile sector gets some 60 percent of its inputs from China, could leasing aircraft from Phnom Penh's airport to help transport raw materials if China agreed, Hun Said said at a speech to open a highway.
“We could rent the cargo planes from Cambodia to transport raw materials from China,” he said.
“It could help the survival of our workers who are facing the loss of their jobs due to the factories being shut down, because of the raw materials shortage,” he said, speaking in the presence of Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian.
Wang gave no reply.
On Monday, Hun Sen unveiled plans to give tax breaks to garment factories, as well as other subsidies from the national budget.
He proposed paying workers 40 percent of the current minimum wage for up to six months in the event that production is suspended, while the government provides workers an additional 20 percent of the minimum wage over the same period.
Some factories in Cambodia have decided to suspend their workers for a short time due to the materials shortage and the effect of the Covid-19 in China.
In Vietnam, meanwhile, the country’s national steering committee for COVID-19 prevention and control called for a quarantine on all Vietnamese people returning from South Korea, , which the largest national total of COVID-19 anywhere outside China, where the virus first emerged.
The Vietnamese Health Ministry has mandated that all passengers coming from coronavirus affected areas be quarantined for 14 days.
The Vietnamese government -- which estimates that there are some 200,000 Vietnamese people living, studying or working in South Korea – has ordered the ministries of education, training and labor to provide lists of students, laborers and others from Vietnam who reside in South Korea.
Vietnam’s Ministry of Labor said Monday it was working on a plan to bring home about 20,000 Vietnamese overseas laborers in affected areas like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
The ministries were also told to spread the word to citizens with relatives living in South Korean to avoid travel to other areas in South Korea. Vietnam has imposed strict controls at border gates and airports on travelers from or through the infected areas and repatriated Vietnamese would have to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
On Tuesday, Ho Chi Minh City Chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong said an outbreak would catch the city of 9 million people without enough doctors or nurses.
He told state media that city’s hospitals can hold only 900 patients, while if the 322 communes or districts in the city had just three infected cases each, it would mean that nearly 1,000 patients would require quarantine and treatment. These requirements would exceed the city’s pool of available medical personnel, he said.
In Myanmar--which has millions of its citizens living outside the country in Thailand, China, South Korea and Japan—there is rising concern about the coronavirus, even though the country has not had a case.
On Tuesday, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi said that her government aimed to evacuate the Myanmar citizens who has been stranded in China and want to return to Myanmar. It was not clear when this would happen, amid airport closures, quarantines and other travel restrictions.
Myanmar migrant worker Than Lay, working in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, said he was getting by on simple foods, with roads and markets near him closed.
“I’ve relied on a small food stall in the neighborhood for my daily meals,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“We can’t have a decent meal since the markets are closed. We have only dried rations like rice, cooking oil, salts, eggs and seasoning. We don’t have fresh meat and fish now,” added Than Lay, who is one of an estimated two million Myanmar nationals living in China.
Similar restrictions were affecting many of the 50,000 Myanmar expatriates in South Korea, said Win Myint Oo, a Myanmar resident of Seoul.
“It is almost impossible to get out of Seoul for now since there are blockages. Very few people go out and don’t go to the crowded places,” he told RFA.
Zeyar Tin Win Htin, a Myanmar diplomat working in South Korea, said his office was scrambling to help migrant workers keep their papers in order amid the epidemic.
“As for our embassy, we have been providing services related citizenship, such as the extension of passport or certificate of identification,” he said.
Reported by Khet Mar for RFA’s Myanmar Service, and by the Khmer and Vietnamese Services. Translated by Pheap Aun, Huy Le and Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Paul Eckert.