State of emergency on table amid pandemic

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Prime Minister Hun Sen told all casinos Kingdom-wide to temporarily close effective April 1. Heng Chivoan

Prime Minister Hun Sen, his deputy prime ministers and legal team will meet on Tuesday to review the draft law on declaring a state of emergency, as Covid-19 cases rose to 107 in the Kingdom on Monday.

Speaking at a press conference after a parliament meeting on Monday, Hun Sen said the meeting will be held on Tuesday to review the legal draft after which it will be passed on Friday at the Council of Ministers meeting before going through further procedures.

“I reiterate now that the law on the state of emergency will definitely come, as I already announced on March 24 that our legal team was preparing it.

“Tomorrow, we usually have inter-ministry meeting or meeting with deputy prime ministers. But this law is a special case, it is a pre-event to the Cabinet meeting,” Hun Sen said.

The draft will be approved by the council of ministers, sent to the National Assembly and Senate for approval, and finally signed by the King to put into use, he said. He rejected the suggestion of imposing a “curfew” instead of enacting a new law, saying that “a curfew is a part of this law”.

Though he declined to reveal the content of the draft law, the prime minister said it covers a number of measures, for example, a curfew could be imposed from 8pm to 5am for a specific duration.

All deputy prime ministers have seen the draft three times already, prepared by Kert Rith, the newly appointed Minister of Justice. It would be used with immediate effect after being signed off by the King, he said.

“I still think this is just a tool in our hand. When the situation cannot be controlled by the police and military, we can use the soldiers to control the situation during the state of emergency.

“In other words, it is used in the framework of martial law or martial regime,” Hun Sen said, pleading with the public to show some understanding once the law is enforced.

Hun Sen also ordered the export ban on some types of rice from April 5 and told all casinos Kingdom-wide to temporarily close effective April 1.

“If we close now, casino owners would run away, then who will be responsible for workers during this temporary closure? I give this task to the Ministry of Economy and Finance to work with casino owners. At least they don’t have to pay tax during their closure.

“All casino owners have to deal with workers in whatever ways during their business suspension. The closure is temporary. When the situation is better, they can resume their business,” Hun Sen said.

Hun Sen also said all state public transport in the capital, including public buses and boats, shall stop services, while all rapid-test kits and medicines allegedly able to cure Covid-19 must be confiscated and destroyed.

He also reiterated that the more than 50,000 migrant workers who returned from Thailand before that country closed its borders must quarantine themselves.

Hun Sen also urged the private sector and businesses to show understanding during this difficult period by reducing or not taking leasing fees. The state will control the price of some products, such as rice, he said.

As of Monday, the prime minister said the government had received more than $10 million in donations to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. The money would be spent to buy three million face masks and 5,000 sets of protective gear for medical personnel.
The four new cases recorded in the Kingdom as of Monday include a Frenchman and three Cambodians.

The Frenchman is 61 years old and arrived in Cambodia on March 22, after having travelled to Guyana.

The three Cambodians include a staff at a casino and KTV in Poipet town, Banteay Meanchey; a man who returned from Japan; and a student who just returned from England on Saturday.

Also, two men had recovered on Monday, including a 38-year-old in Siem Reap who contracted the virus from a Japanese man, and a 35-year-old man in Banteay Meanchey. Both were discharged on Monday, said the Ministry of Health.