Cambodia’s PM Hun Sen COVID-19 Negative After Meeting Hungary’s Now-Positive Top Diplomat


2020-11-04
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cambodia-hun-sen-oversees-signing-with-hungary-nov-2020-crop.jpg Prime Minister Hun Sen (C) oversees a signing ceremony between Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto (L) and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon (2nd-R) in Phnom Penh, Nov. 3, 2020.
Hun Sen's Facebook page

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday that he and 17 family members, including drivers and bodyguards, tested negative for COVID-19, after he met with Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Szijjarto, who tested positive after leaving the country for Thailand.

In a post to his Facebook page, Hun Sen said Cambodia’s Ministry of Health had already gathered everyone who interacted with Hungary’s top diplomat during his one-day visit to test them for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“Even though I tested negative for COVID-19, I’ve been placed under a 14-day quarantine, meaning I can’t even see my wife, my children, or my grandchildren,” Hun Sen wrote.

The prime minister said he will be absent from many public ceremonies and donation events but insisted that he will continue to exercise and play golf in isolation.

Those exposed to the coronavirus often do not exhibit a viral load significant enough to register positive in a test for days or even weeks after making contact with a carrier.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhonn refused to provide any comment to RFA’s Khmer Service about Hun Sen’s health and instead forwarded on the prime minister’s Facebook statement.

However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement Wednesday informing the public about Szijjarto’s positive test.

The ministry said in a press release that all Hungarian delegates had tested negative for COVID-19 before arriving in Cambodia. Upon arrival in Bangkok on Wednesday, the delegation tested positive.

“Upon learning about the situation, the government decided to have all government leaders and other officials who interacted with the [Hungarian] delegates tested for COVID-19 and quarantine according to the Ministry of Health’s orders,” the statement read.

Abuse of protocols

Social Analyst Seng Sary criticized Cambodia’s government officials for abusing the Ministry of Health’s protocols by not wearing masks during a signing ceremony on Tuesday.

Hun Sen, Prak Sokhonn, Minister of Water Resources and Meteorology Lim Kean Hor, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon, and Minister in charge of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation Mao Havanall did not wear masks.

“The government violated the Ministry of Health’s rules,” Seng Sary said.

“The government has asked its citizens to comply with the Ministry of Health but instead it abused its order. It is unfortunate.”

Seng Sary warned of dire consequences for Cambodia if the country’s government officials contract the disease.

Ministry of Health spokesman Or Vandine refused to comment but said the ministry is working on the issue.

Cambodia has reported 292 coronavirus cases with no deaths.

On Monday, the country opened schools for the first time since March, citing the results of a trial phase in which some schools in the capital Phnom Penh and parts of eastern Cambodia reopened last month.

Class sizes and hours remain limited as the coronavirus continues to rage throughout Europe and the U.S.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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