Prime Minister Hun Sen intends to fly to the Chinese city of Wuhan today to visit Cambodian students stranded there. The prime minister, who is now in South Korea, is waiting for Chinese authorities to grant him permission.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Hun Sen said he had already asked Chinese authorities for permission to travel to Wuhan, the city at the epicentre of the deadly 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak.
Hun Sen, who recently described himself as a man habituated to taking risks, said he wants to lend his support to the 23 Cambodian students there.
Wuhan city, located in the central Chinese province of Hubei, is in lockdown after the coronavirus outbreak that began in December last year.
The death toll has reached 427 with more than 20,000 confirmed cases around the world – most of them in China.
Officials say 425 people have died in China. One death has also been confirmed in the Philippines and Hong Kong.
The prime minister’s decision to travel to China is in response to social media critics who recently challenged him to take the trip. Those critics were concerned about Hun Sen’s decision last week not to evacuate Cambodian students and officials stranded in Wuhan.
In response to his detractors, Hun Sen said he is not afraid of the virus, just like he was not afraid of going to war to liberate Cambodia.
The post on the prime minister’s Facebook page said: “Samdech Techo has already informed Chinese leaders of his plans to visit Cambodian students in Wuhan to lend them support and show them that they should not fear the virus.
“At the moment, Samdech Techo is waiting for confirmation from the Chinese. The city is currently in lockdown and the country in a state of emergency.”
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said on Tuesday that he is unaware if Hun Sen has been granted permission to take the trip.
Pen Baraing, one of the Cambodian students stranded in China, did not think the trip was a good idea.
“I don’t think it is a good time to come. The trip could complicate things for the Wuhan administration as they would have to do a lot of work to ensure the safety of the delegation,” he said.
He said the Cambodian students are scattered in six different locations across China, making it difficult for the prime minister to meet with all of them. Furthermore, as head of the government, he said Hun Sen (pictured) has a lot of responsibilities to fulfil at home and abroad.
“We are all in good health and are being cared for by the Cambodian Embassy in Beijing, the Student Association in China, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We have the support we need. I think we should visit [Hun Sen] after we finish our studies,” he said.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Chinese authorities are closely following the situation of the Cambodian students in Wuhan.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Cambodian embassy and consulates in China are in direct contact with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs to keep abreast of any development regarding the well-being of Cambodians in China, especially the students in Wuhan.”
A ministry press release said it has asked Chinese authorities to send hygiene kits to Cambodian students and share guidelines to avoid any contagion.
The ministry also said it has created a WeChat group to communicate with Cambodian students in China.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong told The Post on Tuesday that there are no Cambodian nationals in Wuhan besides the 23 students.
“The students are fine. They enjoy good health and are in high spirits and communicating regularly with the embassy,” he said.