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Students in limbo as Japan bars entry

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Some 55 students are now stranded in the Kingdom and unable to return to Japan. Hun Manet via Facebook

Students in limbo as Japan bars entry

The Japanese embassy in Cambodia has confirmed that Cambodians will be denied entry to Japan because direct flights from the Kingdom to that country have been suspended.

The question of returning to Japan arose as some 55 Cambodian students are currently stranded in the Kingdom and unable to return there to continue their studies, according to Cambodia Students Association in Japan president Men Vuthy.

“Of the 55 students, about 10 are here for home visits and research purposes while the others are supposed to leave for Japan on scholarships but are unable to get there,” he said.

Japanese embassy spokesman and counsellor Suzuki Hironori told The Post the only choice Cambodians have to travel there is to transit in South Korea whose infectious disease risk has been set at Level 3. Hence, all travellers to Japan via South Korea will be denied entry.

He also said Japan will allow Cambodians to return once direct flights resume, but only if they hold valid re-entry permits and left that country before April 2 – the date when the infectious disease risk of travel information for Cambodia was changed from Level 1 to Level 2 in light of the increasing Covid-19 cases.

“The Kingdom of Cambodia is not designated as a country subject to denial of permission to enter Japan. Cambodians who hold the status of workers (such as technical trainees, specified skilled workers) or students, holding valid re-entry permits and left Japan before April 2 will be permitted to re-enter from Cambodia by direct flight to Japan,” Hironori said.

On July 22, Japan’s Kyodo News Agency (KNA) reported Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as saying that Japan will partially lift the entry restriction imposed on some 129 countries to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in its territories.

But he said it will start discussing the resumption of flights with 12 Asian countries first – China, South Korea, Taiwan, Brunei, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, and Singapore.

This means some 200,000 foreign nationals, including students and business workers who are stranded abroad will be allowed to re-enter Japan if they hold valid travel and employment documents, KNA said.

Abe’s announcement brought hope to stranded Cambodian students, one of whom is Keam Konglephy who was pursuing his Master’s in Public Policy at the University of Tokyo.

Kongleaphy told The Post he is worried about keeping up with on his room rental payments in Japan when his scholarship from the Asian Development Bank–Japan Scholarship Programme (ADB–JSP) ends in August.

“I cannot return to Japan because of Covid-19. All my belongings are stored in my rented room and I don’t have the money to pay for the rent which is more than $500 a month.

“When I contacted the embassy to clarify if it will provide me with a confirmation letter allowing me to return to Japan if I had a health certificate stating that I am Covid-19-free, the officials there said I can only return by direct flight and not through South Korea,” he said.

Kongleaphy, who has a Japanese residence card valid until November, said since there is no direct flight to Japan at the moment, he is at a loss as to what to do.

When attempting to substantiate the progress of discussions on the resumption of direct flight to Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesman Kuy Kuong did not respond by press time.

State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) spokesman Sin Chansereyvutha told The Post that direct flights between Cambodia and Japan has been postponed until the end of September, but passengers can travel via transit flight if they wished.

He said there are between seven and 10 indirect flights daily between Cambodia and Japan and vice versa.

Chansereyvutha said passengers can transit through South Korea, Taiwan, or China via either Guangzhou or Shanghai.

In late June, the Cambodian and Japanese Chambers of Commerce proposed to request All Nippon Airways (ANA) to resume direct flights to Cambodia ahead of its scheduled September return.

At the time, Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng said: “We will send a joint request that ANA resume direct flights to Cambodia as soon as possible because the delay has hampered the return of Japanese investors to the Kingdom.

“The resumption of direct flights will benefit Cambodia-Japan tourism, culture, and business sectors.”

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