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Committee tracks influx of migrants

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Cambodian Muslims returning home after being quarantined for 12 days at a high school in Kandal province’s Takhmao town. Heng Chivoan

Committee tracks influx of migrants

A newly-established inter-ministerial committee is discussing ways to contain the Covid-19 pandemic ahead of the Khmer New Year and in anticipation of the return of more migrant workers from Thailand.

The General Department of Immigration said Cambodian workers continue to return every day through international border checkpoints and corridors after Thailand shut its borders.

It said both countries still allowed their nationals to return.

At the O’smach International Border Checkpoint in Oddar Meanchey province on Monday, 864 workers returned to Cambodia.

The General Department of Immigration director-general, Kirth Chantharith, told The Post on Monday that around 60,000 migrant workers have returned since the end of March, when Thailand announced its border closure.

He said an average of 1,000 workers arrive in Cambodia each day.

“O’Smach is the only official border checkpoint that remains open, but our workers are also coming through unofficial corridors. We are concerned about this, but we have immigration police working in cooperation with soldiers at the borders.

“We gather them and place them under quarantine,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Sunday that none of the migrant workers has caused harm to public health in their communities through coronavirus infections, which remained stagnant at 114 cases as of Monday.

Of the number, 53 Covid-19 patients, or 46.49 per cent, have been discharged from hospitals. The latest three patients who recovered on Monday are Malaysian nationals doing Islamic religious work in Kampong Cham province.

Meanwhile, 12 Cambodian Muslims from Svay Proteal commune in Kandal province’s Sa’ang district – who had been quarantined over the last 12 days after they went into close contact with two Covid-19 patients – have returned home after testing negative.

District governor Nhem Vandine said the 12 were isolated at the Hun Sen Takhmao High School.

“They were in close contact with the two Covid-19 patients, who tested positive but have already recovered,” he said.

On Monday, an inter-ministerial committee created on Thursday and led by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng held a meeting at the Ministry of Interior to discuss the pandemic.

Attended by top officials from the interior ministry, relevant institutions and the 25 municipal and provincial governors, the meeting aimed to introduce plans to prevent the virus from spreading across the Kingdom.

Health ministry spokesperson Or Vandine could not be reached for comment on Monday. But National Police chief Neth Savoeun, who is also the committee’s vice-president, said on his Facebook page that the meeting touched on the return of migrant workers before the Khmer New Year.

Kampong Speu provincial governor Vei Samnang, who was present at the meeting, echoed Savoeun.

He said attendees raised concerns about the influx of migrant workers from Thailand through unofficial corridors, which makes it difficult for the authorities to control them and monitor their health.

“It’d be ideal if the workers returned directly through the official borders. But, we’re worried that they are coming back through illegal border crossings.

“They don’t inform us when returning through such corridors. If they do, we can check up on their health.

“We have laid out measures to respond to the situation. And with the Khmer New Year approaching, we won’t allow any mass gatherings. If we let people gather, chances are they will drink in groups and possibly infect each other,” he said.

However, he said the final decision rests with Prime Minister Hun Sen, who will address the nation on Tuesday over government-imposed measures during the New Year celebrations.

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