Prime Minister Hun Sen said Cambodia is now in the trial and decisive stage as to whether the country will face a disaster or safety after the Pchum Ben holiday, when people flock to their hometowns for family reunion.
He said it is a time to test whether the country can fully reopen by year's end amid the prolonged Covid-19 pandemic.
In a special audio address to the nation on October 6, which is the last day of the 15-day Pchum Ben festival, Hun Sen said Cambodians had been travelling to pagodas and resorts across the country after the majority of the Kingdom's population had been fully vaccinated against the disease.
“We take this test [after thorough assessment], not by chance, though we cannot be absolutely sure whether it is really safe to do so. We are ready to accept the tragedy like the case in India where large-scale outbreaks and consequent deaths were traced back to a religious event.
"For Cambodia, we must also be ready to face the consequences on public health. This is the trial phase to see whether after Pchum Ben we have a large-scale outbreak or not. If it is the case, then the plan to reopen the country in all sectors will not be possible.
“But if our compatriots can protect themselves and the number of transmission cases and deaths is not severe as a result, we all will witness the reopening of the economy and society, especially schools and tourism,” he said.
He called on all monks, laypeople and authorities across the country to strictly enforce health measures during the religious ceremonies and public holiday and later on to prevent the spread of the disease.
The prime minister also hinted that the celebrations of the Water Festival, which falls on November 18-20, will not take place this year, but the public holiday will be maintained for people to enjoy their travel.
“This trial will determine whether disaster or safety prevails. If we do it properly, disaster will not occur and wouldn't prompt us to halt the plan to reopen the country. I hope that safety will be the outcome, though it depends on individuals and families during this holiday.
“The safety outcome that we expect after Pchum Ben will lead us to reopen the country in all sectors ... bringing the country back to its original state before the pandemic, albeit in the Covid-19 context whereby people adjust their lives to the new normal,” he said.