Prime Minister Hun Sen confirmed that the MS Westerdam, a cruise liner with a unique link to the Kingdom, will return to Cambodia in December.

More than three years ago, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the vessel was refused entry by several other nations when Hun Sen stepped in and offered a safe harbour to the vessel.

This incident was widely reported internationally, with Cambodia being referred to as a “small country with a big heart”.

Hun Sen recalled that the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port (PAS) did an important job of rescuing the liner, with thousands of people being able to return to their respective home countries.

“This was a humanitarian gesture by Cambodia. I have been told that the Westerdam will return later this year, with the visit being taken as a symbol of the Kingdom’s concern for the lives of all people, not just its own,” he said while presiding over the May 1 groundbreaking of a new container terminal at the port.

He thanked the workers and management of the port at the time for their excellent work as hosts, noting that many countries were afraid to let the ship dock.

“You did a great job. I hope that when the Westerdam returns, some of the passengers and crew will remember with fondness their previous visit to Sihanoukville,” he added.

Five nations – Japan, Taiwan, the US territory of Guam, the Philippines and Thailand – refused to let the Dutch-flagged vessel dock, before the Kingdom welcomed its more than 1,400 passengers and crew.

The liner was on a 14-day cruise at the time, with 14 different nationalities aboard.

Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, told The Post on May 1 that the Westerdam’s return would be a reminder of the Kingdom’s virtuous conduct during the difficult times of the pandemic.

“Hopefully, the ship’s visit will encourage the world to learn about the Kingdom’s virtues. Perhaps people will recall the time we were responsible for saving so many lives and plan own trips here to enjoy Cambodian hospitality,” he said.

Peou noted that the prime minister’s decision to allow the vessel to dock at that time was of great value to the world, and showed the true nature of the Cambodian heart.

“At that time, it was not allowed to enter any port in the region. Only Cambodia allowed it to berth, and the prime minister was even there to greet the stricken passengers and crew personally,” he recalled.