Cambodia’s Hun Sen Pushes Vaccines, People Ask For Food

Many have been confined to their homes for weeks, and have been blocked from going out to make purchases needed to feed their families.

Cambodia’s Hun Sen Pushes Vaccines, People Ask For Food

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered military doctors to vaccinate the residents of Phnom Penh’s so-called red zones, areas of the city locked down amid a recent surge of COVID-19 infections, but residents forced to stay at home say their greatest need is food.

Many have been confined to their homes for weeks, and have been blocked from going out to make purchases needed to feed their families, one resident told RFA’s Khmer Service on Wednesday.

“I am begging the government to help us,” said Mong Koeun, who lives with his family in a rented room in Phnom Penh’s Sangkat Stung Meanchey district.

“If we can’t go out to do our daily work as usual, please help us with food or with money so that we can support ourselves,” he said, adding that he recently saw news of a distribution of food in the area, but that his family had been overlooked.

“We have been facing a great deal of hunger and malnutrition so far,” he said.

Mong Koeun’s comments came after Hun Sen ordered doctors this week to vaccinate all residents of red zones, with a voice message sent on May 5 to officials extending the time available for the task.

Nearly 150,000 have already been vaccinated in the red zones, and Cambodia now has enough vaccines available to inoculate at least 520,000 people more, Hun Sen said.

“Another 500,000 doses will arrive [from China] on May 11, and another 500,000 doses will come on May 15. So we will have an additional million doses on hand,” Hun Sen said, adding that residents should observe social distancing when going to get their vaccines.

Non-residents should also not enter the red zones to get vaccines for themselves, he added.

Weeks of lockdowns in Phnom Penh have hurt the city’s poor the most, said Sum Samon, director of the Urban Poor Women’s Development Organization (UPWD). Government has been slow to act, and red-zone residents have been begging for help every day, she said.

“Another problem has been a lack of the things needed to guard against infection, as the poor don’t have enough money to buy hand sanitizer or masks that need to be regularly changed,” she said.

Call for access

In a May 5 statement, New York-based Human Rights Watch called on Cambodian authorities to immediately grant unrestricted red-zone access to United Nations agencies and other aid groups, and to end “abusive police enforcement of public health measures.”

“Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government is failing to meet its obligations during the pandemic lockdown to protect poor and vulnerable communities,” said HRW Asia director Brad Adams.

“The government should immediately allow UN agencies and aid groups full access so they can help hungry people with food, health care, and other essentials necessary for their survival,” Adams said.

In neighboring Laos, 46 new cases of COVID-19 infection were recorded on May 5, with 19 reported in the capital Vientiane, 15 reported in Bokeo province, six reported in Champassak, and six reported in Savannakhet.

A total of 1,072 cases of COVID-19 infection have now been reported in Laos since the pandemic began, with 99 patients recovered, 973 still receiving medical care, and no deaths reported.

The Lanxang indoor sports complex at Donekoy village in the Sisattanak district of Vientiane has meanwhile been turned into one of three makeshift hospitals now operating in the capital.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer and Lao Services. Translated by Sok Ry Sum and Max Avary. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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National Security Adviser: Filipinos Exempt From Beijing's Fishing Ban

Largely forced out of their traditional fishing grounds, Filipino fishermen have claimed a decline of as much as 80 percent in their catch since the Chinese took control of certain parts of the South China Sea.

National Security Adviser: Filipinos Exempt From Beijing's Fishing Ban

The Philippine Coast Guard drove away Chinese militia ships from a Manila-claimed reef in the South China Sea in late April, the national security adviser said, while declaring that Filipino fishermen are exempt from Beijing’s annual fishing ban in the disputed waterway and other seas.

The coast guard’s BRP Cabra, backed by other ships, shooed away seven Chinese ships from Sabina Shoal on April 27, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said. The reef is 130 nautical miles west of Puerto Princesa in Palawan province, within the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“The crew of the BRP Cabra issued challenges to the offending vessels, but elicited no response from the CMM,” Esperon said in a statement released late Tuesday night, referring to the “Chinese Maritime Militia.”

“After around 20 minutes however, the CMM vessels dispersed and left the shoal after being challenged by BRP Cabra,” he said, describing the Chinese ships as having initially formed a “stationary linear formation.”

On Wednesday, the coast guard released footage and photos of the confrontation at Sabina Shoal.

Esperon, who also serves as chairman of the country’s National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS), also rejected China’s annual fishing ban. It began on May 1 and runs through Aug. 16 in parts of the sea that include waters inside Manila’s EEZ.

The West Philippine Sea is Manila’s designation for territory it claims in the South China Sea.

“This fishing ban does not apply to our fishermen and the NTF-WPS opposes China’s imposition of the same over the areas within the territory and jurisdiction of the Philippines,” Esperon said.

“The NTF-WPS reiterates that our fisherfolk are encouraged to go out and fish in our waters in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, for comment on Esperon’s statements.

Beijing’s annual fishing ban began Saturday in the Bohai Sea, Yellow Sea, East China Sea and portions of the South China Sea. 

Involving more than 100,000 Chinese fishing boats and nearly 1 million Chinese fishermen, Beijing imposes the annual ban to preserve marine fisheries, Chinese state-run media has said.

Although the ban expressly covers only Chinese fishermen, Beijing’s law enforcement agencies including its coast guard “would target major violation cases and severely clamp down on organized marine fishery crimes,” it said.

In recent years, Filipino and Vietnamese fishermen have been forced to observe Beijing’s fishing ban in the South China Sea, despite their protests, because of the presence of Chinese government ships.

Largely forced out of their traditional fishing grounds, Filipino fishermen have claimed a decline of as much as 80 percent in their catch since the Chinese took control of certain parts of the South China Sea.

The Vietnam Fisheries Society (VFS) expressed its opposition to China’s fishing ban – echoing the criticism made by the Vietnamese government last week that it was a violation of Vietnamese sovereignty and international law. 

The VFS said that the ban could cause clashes between Vietnam’s law enforcement forces and fishermen and China’s coastguard, and impede the usual fishing activities of Vietnamese fishermen on their traditional fishing grounds.

“We demand that China end this fishing ban in the East Sea/South China Sea, including in the waters under Vietnam’s sovereignty,” the VFS said in a document submitted to the Vietnamese government on Tuesday.

The VFS represents Vietnamese fishermen, aquaculture producers, fisheries processors and organizations providing services in the fisheries sector.

Hundreds of Chinese ships spotted

Prior to the April 27 incident at Sabina Shoal, the NTF-WPS had reported spotting an estimated 240 Chinese ships throughout the West Philippine Sea. It later updated that figure to 160.

In March, Manila reported a “swarming” of what it called Chinese militia ships at Whitsun Reef, also within the Philippine EEZ.

The Whitsun incident triggered a diplomatic spat between Manila and Beijing, which dismissed the accusation as an “unnecessary irritation,” and insisted the area was Chinese territory.

The Philippine government has been filing daily protests since April over what it says has been a constant presence of Chinese fishing boats backed by its maritime militia in its territories.

“The Philippines is not deterred from defending our national interest, patrimony and our dignity as a people with all that we have,” Esperon said on Tuesday.

Law enforcement patrols are to continue in Philippine-claimed areas in the South China Sea, Esperon said, as he reiterated a call to China and other claimant nations to “comply with their international obligations.”

The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have competing claims to portions of the South China Sea, while China claims virtually all of it. Although Indonesia does not consider itself a party to the dispute, China has claims that overlap with Indonesia’s EEZ in the South China Sea.

A July 2016 international arbitral award declared the Philippines’ claim to its EEZ in the South China Sea valid over China’s sweeping claim. 

This year, Beijing’s passage of a law allowing the Chinese Coast Guard to fire at ships it perceives to be intruding in Chinese-claimed territory raised the stakes.

Beijing maintains a coast guard presence around the Scarborough Shoal even though it is 118 nautical miles west of the Philippine island of Luzon, within Manila’s EEZ.

Recent Philippine patrols reported spotting three China Coast Guard ships around the shoal.

On Monday, the Filipino food security advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan said the Philippines stood to lose as much as 7.2 million kg (15.87 million pounds) of fish for every month that Chinese ships force Filipinos out of their fishing grounds in the South China Sea.

The fishermen’s advocacy group Pamalakaya petitioned the United Nations on April 30 to nullify Beijing’s coast guard law, investigate the environmental damage Chinese ships have caused in the South China Sea, and to “demilitarize” the strategic and resource-rich waterway.

The Vietnamese Service of Radio Free Asia (RFA), a sister agency of BenarNews, contributed to this report.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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