Embassy Warns Cambodians in Vietnam of 12-Year Covid-19 Jail Penalties

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A sign requiring Aeon Mall 1 customers to wear a mask and take a temperature check, placed at the entrance of the building in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district on December 4, 2020. (Tran Techseng/VOD)
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The Cambodian Embassy in Vietnam this week cautioned Cambodians living in the neighboring country to abide by Covid-19 procedures or face fines and potentially up to 12 years in prison.

In its statement, the embassy said Vietnamese authorities had imposed harsh penalties for people who violate Covid-19 protocols. Violators could face up to 12 years in prison, the embassy said without specifying what breaches could incur the jail term.

People making false health declarations could be fined up to 100 million dong, or about $4,350, while those who do not wear a mask or maintain social distancing in public could be fined $130 and those who improperly dispose of masks fined $220 to $310, among a raft of other penalties, it said.

In recent weeks, Vietnam has seen a relative spike of Covid-19 cases, registering 21 new cases on Wednesday to raise the number of current active cases there to 611, according to VN Express.

Prime Minister Hun Sen last week urged tighter restrictions on border crossings as Covid-19 spread in the neighboring country.

Moeun Sreynet, 20, a Cambodian student at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology, said strict measures were helpful for protecting both locals and foreigners in Vietnam from Covid-19.

But the harsh penalties of up to 12 years in prison made her concerned, she said.

“I’m very worried, so I have to obey the law and not go out unless there is an important task,” Sreynet said.

Pong Sokhong, 22, another Cambodian student at the university, said he understood that the spread of the disease could become hard to control without the protocols and penalties.

“The rules that have been publicized are appropriate and acceptable because they are issued to protect safety and health,” Sokhong said. “It is for the people. … It is good for the students here.”

Khun Tharo, program manager at labor rights group Central, also expressed support for authorities taking firm action against Covid-19, whether in Cambodia or Vietnam.

But 12 years in jail was too restrictive, he said.

Nevertheless, “it could contribute to prevention, because what is worrying is the influx or transmission of the disease that we don’t know in advance. It is difficult [to prevent it], so the measure can help,” Tharo said.

Cambodia, meanwhile, has recorded 478 Covid-19 cases and 459 recoveries, and began its vaccination program on Wednesday with 339 Sinopharm shots given to government officials and journalists as the country hopes to ultimately vaccinate 10 million people.

(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)

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