Prime Minister Hun Sen said February 13 marked three years since Cambodia was lauded as a “small country with a big heart” for its humanitarian action in allowing the cruise ship MS Westerdam to dock during the early days of the Covid-19 outbreak.

He took to social media to remind Cambodians that the world still remembers when the liner was welcomed personally by the prime minister to the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, Preah Sihanouk province.

“Since this great event, people around the world have expressed great admiration for the generosity of the Cambodian people, as well as the Cambodian leadership who gave the opportunity for this large cruise ship with thousands of passengers, and which was about to run out of food, to dock in the territory of the Kingdom of Cambodia,” he said.

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, many countries in the region were unwilling to let the ship dock, due to fears it could spark a community outbreak.

“Nevertheless, Cambodia has accepted this cruise ship. Each of the passengers, of all nationalities, referred to the Kingdom as a small country with a big heart,” he said.

On February 13, 2020, the international cruise ship MS Westerdam, with a total of 2,257 passengers and crew, docked safely in Cambodia, with the blessings of the government.

The Ministry of Tourism said all of the visitors were warmly welcomed by Prime Minister Hun Sen and many other senior delegates the day after they arrived, on Valentine’s Day.

The ministry said the historical humanitarian action increased the world’s understanding of the peaceful nature of Cambodia, and earned the admiration of the leaders of some of the world’s top institutions, including the World Health Organisation, the World Tourism Organisation and the international embassies of Cambodia.

“To celebrate the three-year anniversary of this monumental act of kindness, as well as to celebrate the Visit Cambodia 2023 campaign, the ministry calls on tourism businesses, development partners, journalists and the public to participate in sharing images and videos of the historic event,” it added.

Cambodia is a safe, clean and green tourism destination, which was fully reopened to international tourists on November 10-13, 2022, it continued.

“Cambodia achieved great success as the host of the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summits and related meetings in 2022, as it served as ASEAN chair. The successes demonstrated that the Kingdom is indeed one of the safest countries in the world to visit,” it said.

According to the ministry, this year Cambodia will host several major domestic and international tourism events, including the seventh edition of the annual River Festival to be held in Kampong Thom province, Russian Food Week in Phnom Penh, the Sea Festival in Kep and the Mekong Tourism Forum in Preah Sihanouk province, the 32nd SEA Games and the 12th ASEAN Para Games in Phnom Penh.

The Visit Cambodia 2023 campaign is themed “Every Day a Wonder” and focuses on business tourism, or MICE – Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions – and sporting events.