(Bangkok) – Cambodian authorities ought to stop utilizing inflammatory rhetoric towards weak teams and foreigners within the context of the coronavirus pandemic, Human Rights Watch mentioned in the present day. To be able to shield people with COVID-19 from discrimination and violence, the federal government ought to restrict the discharge of private data equivalent to ethnicity, race, faith, political affiliation, and sexual id.
On March 17, 2020, the Well being Ministry posted on its official Facebook page an update of positive COVID-19 cases and made reference to particular teams of people that contracted the virus, together with “Khmer Islam.” This post led to an outburst of discriminatory and hateful comments on-line, and discriminatory day by day interactions at markets, outlets, and neighborhood areas towards Cambodia’s minority Muslim communities.
“The Cambodian authorities ought to act to make sure there isn’t a discrimination towards weak teams and foreigners in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” mentioned Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “Authorities leaders ought to formally apologize to Cambodia’s Muslim communities for the Well being Ministry’s discriminatory assertion and meet with neighborhood members to point out their assist.”
The Health Ministry reportedon March 17 that 11 “Khmer Islam coming back from a non secular ceremony in Malaysia” had examined optimistic for the COVID-19 virus, a reference to the mass pilgrimage exterior Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, between February 27 and March 1. The coronavirus reportedly unfold amongst a crowd that reached 16,000 individuals. As of March 30, there have been 107 cases of COVID-19 reported in Cambodia.
Subsequent statements by the Well being Ministry on March 18 and March 19 dropped reference to their faith, utilizing as a substitute the final time period “Khmer.” Nonetheless, the federal government has not apologized for the March 17 assertion, nor taken steps to deal with the dangerous public response.
Members of the general public posted hateful Fb feedback in response to the Well being Ministry’s unique assertion, blaming Cambodia’s Muslim communitiesfor the unfold of the virus within the nation. Cambodian Muslims, particularly in Phnom Penh, have since reported facing discrimination, equivalent to individuals refusing to promote or purchase merchandise from them, or to change cash. Others reported that Cambodians of non-Muslim religion placed on face masks as quickly as they noticed members of Muslim religion come into their neighborhood.
A authorities spokesperson, Phay Siphan, sought to contain the damage by asking the media to not use figuring out details about individuals contaminated with COVID-19. Per week later, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said that Prime Minister Hun Sen had declared “that there isn’t a must divide between Cambodian Muslims, this Khmer, that Khmer. We don’t must discriminate towards Cambodian Muslims. Irrespective of which nationals come to Cambodia throughout this problematic time, we mustn’t discriminate towards them both.” On the identical day because the Well being Ministry announcement, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced a ban on all religious gatherings.
Nonetheless, the federal government has not taken concrete steps to finish discriminatory actions. The federal government has additionally urged that foreigners are solely liable for the unfold of the virus. VOD Information reported on March 25 that Health Ministry spokesman Ly Sovann stated, “A lot of the circumstances have been introduced in from exterior, and there’s no signal of transmission between individuals of their [local] communities.”
Public well being researchers have discovered that the extreme quarantine measures in Hubei, China delayed spread of the disease throughout the nation. Nonetheless, journey bans equivalent to these imposed in Cambodia and elsewhere is not going to be sufficient to stop native transmission and international locations ought to urgently implement social distancing, widespread testing and call tracing, and supervised isolation of people discovered to be contaminated.
After banning foreigners from Italy, Germany, Spain, France, and the USA from getting into the nation for 30 days efficient March 17, on March 27, the Cambodian government suspended all visa exemptions and issuance of vacationer visas, e-visas, and visas on arrival to any foreigner and imposed strict circumstances for foreigners in search of any visa for Cambodia. Cambodia had not, nevertheless, banned vacationers from China, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Discriminatory actions towards foreigners in Cambodia seem like on the rise, Human Rights Watch mentioned. Expatriates have more and more reported on social media that they’ve been denied entry into outlets and institutions in Phnom Penh and different locations. The federal government has not taken any motion, although store homeowners have posted indicators in English refusing entry or service to foreigners. In some locales, indicators have been posted claiming in English that the store was closed whereas Khmer language indicators point out the store was “open as standard.”
On March 19, the US Embassy in Cambodia put out a travel and security alert for Cambodia,stating:
The U.S. Embassy has obtained stories of harassment or discrimination directed at expatriates associated to COVID-19 developments. Safety personnel have forcibly closed some eating places and bars frequented by expatriates. Whereas these incidents so far have been remoted, native authorities could proceed to take these steps with out warning or consistency.”
The World Well being Group (WHO) has acknowledged the unfold of stigma and discrimination throughout the pandemic and has consequently put out examples to counter stigmatization of groups in instances of a brand new illness. These embody: “Spreading the info: Stigma could be heightened by inadequate data about how the brand new coronavirus illness (COVID-19) is transmitted and handled, and how one can stop an infection.” The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has recognized that the right to health is intently associated and dependent upon different rights, together with nondiscrimination, and that each prevention and therapy needs to be obtainable with out discrimination.
A Human Rights Watch report on the human rights dimensions of the COVID-19 response analyzes authorities obligations and human rights issues posed by the coronavirus outbreak. Amongst others, governments ought to be certain that data on the unfold of COVID-19 is supplied in a well timed, clear, and correct method, with out placing anybody susceptible to discrimination or violence. Governments must also assure that affected person confidentiality is protected, whilst authorities take steps to establish those that could have been uncovered to the virus.
“The WHO and different worldwide businesses ought to name upon the Cambodian authorities to focus its communications round COVID-19 responses on correct and well timed info,” Robertson mentioned. “It ought to stop any public statements that encourage hatred, discrimination, and violence towards any particular teams or individuals dwelling in Cambodia.”