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UN Human rights experts are confused between human rights and saving lives in the fight against Covid-19 in Cambodia

Kok-Thay ENG Khmer Times Sat April 24, 2021

PHNOM PENH – The so-called UN human rights experts from Geneva, which is 10,000 km away, urged Cambodia to review her approach to Covid-19 on April 12, citing “harsh legal and administrative measures” while saying the on-going community transmission in Cambodia is limited. Their statement does not help Cambodian people but creates unnecessary distraction at a time when Cambodia has to work together to fight against Covid-19 pandemic.

The experts failed to weigh in the dramatic increase of Covid-19 cases. Since the February 20 community spread, 59 people have died and 7,352 people are infected. This community transmission alone is ten times higher than total infections in the whole of 2020 when there was no death at all. Clearly drastic measure is needed and deterrence is required to make sure that quarantine means saving lives and spreading Covid-19 intentionally means putting other people’s lives at risk. When the UN human rights experts do not know the difference between human rights and saving human lives, it is a huge problem. Perhaps there is a systematic bias against Cambodia.

The experts rather than issuing this statement from Geneva should come to Cambodia and see it for themselves how overcrowded the hospitals are and the pressure Covid-19 puts on medical personnel. The 7,352 infected cases are just the tip of an iceberg of the amount of work that medical personnel have to complete. There are at least ten times more people who have contacts with the patients that need to be tested, three times, and placed in quarantine over a fifteen days period.

Mitigating measures against Covid-19 is an evolving process and could change day by day depending on how and why it emerges. The human rights experts also critique Cambodia on the release of identity of the patients. Cambodian medical system clearly understands the strict privacy protections against disclosure of patient information. In the first year of Covid-19 pandemic, Cambodia withholds these information. But Covid-19 is special and the people understand it. By disclosing information, the patients, their close contacts and the community at large help in containing Covid-19 which increasingly requires more nuanced measures.

It is contrary to the fact when the experts suggest that Cambodia should protect the vulnerable. It is the vulnerable population that strict legal and administrative measures are being imposed. Necessary provisions have been provided to the patients, their families and those in quarantine. General economic relief has also been put in place to help the poor.

Kok-Thay ENG, Ph.D. Director of Cambodian Institute for Peace and Development Phnom Penh, Cambodia

SOURCE – Khmer Times, Cambodia Sat April 24, 2021

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