Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday called for concerted efforts and coordinated action among ASEAN member states in a “joint battle” to fight against Covid-19.
Speaking during the 36th ASEAN Special Summit via video conference, Hun Sen said the bloc’s member states have targeted their fight against Covid-19 domestically. He urged for a change of course, as the virus can spread across borders.
He pointed out that the Kingdom had seen a small cluster of infections, the majority of which were imported.
“The containment of this disease cannot be done within one country. The success in fighting Covid-19 requires in-depth and comprehensive cooperation across sectors. ASEAN has to unite together in fighting Covid-19 as a common cause.
“ASEAN, as a community of common destiny, should enhance closer coordination and dialogue among member states ahead of introducing any measures, thus avoiding heavy socio-economic damage within the region through unilateral measures such as a closure of cross-border checkpoints without prior notice,” he said.
He said unilateral measures could disrupt production, supply chains and trade flows between countries, thereby affecting the entire regional economy.
The prime minister urged member states to enhance the timely exchange of information, experiences, techniques and medical knowledge related to the diagnosis, monitoring, control and treatment of Covid-19 patients.
He also called for more support among member states, including the sharing of medical equipment and supplies, which he said has been facilitated through the establishment of the Covid-19 ASEAN Response Fund.
Citing Cambodia’s experience, Hun Sen urged ASEAN members to foster and cultivate a culture of sharing as the fight against Covid-19 requires significant funding and resources.
He said public institutions can pool their donations and distribute them to the people in need. Development partners and NGOs, he said, can also contribute by donating necessities to the people.
He said sharing can be from high-income groups towards the society and low-income groups, and between people in the communities.
“This culture has not only helped relieve pressure on the national budget but also established a united movement, a spirit of one nation and a catalyst to fighting against Covid-19,” he said.
Hun Sen urged ASEAN members to avoid racial discrimination and the blame game, which would only undermine solidarity.
He said Cambodia has been providing Covid-19 treatment not only to Cambodians but also foreigners too.
As of Tuesday, the number of coronavirus infections in the Kingdom remained at 122. Of the number, 38 are women.
Among the 91 Covid-19 patients who have since recovered, 55 are foreigners. They include two Malaysians, three Indonesians, a Chinese, five Britons, 40 French, a Canadian, a Belgian and two Americans.
Hun Sen urged the bloc to continue the spirit of mutual assistance, drawing attention on those stranded in any ASEAN country.
While commending other member states for assisting Cambodians in their countries, he said on March 25, the Kingdom permitted Malaysia to arrange a flight to take 111 of its nationals home.
He made similar appeals to China, Japan and South Korea in another ASEAN Plus Three video conference.
He thanked China for sending medical, civil and military personnel along with medical equipment to help the Kingdom fight Covid-19. He also thanked Japan which has pledged to provide a $20 million grant for Cambodia to purchase medical equipment, medicines, and ambulances.
Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch said a joint battle in the fight against Covid-19 within the ASEAN framework could be achieved only in principal. He said ASEAN does not have common strategies on any issue aside from politics.