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Former PM Defends His Decision to Allow Ship to Dock during Covid

PHNOM PENH: The return of the cruise ship granted safe harbor during the outbreak of Covid-19 has reignited the discussion around former Prime Minister Hun Sen’s humanitarian efforts during that time. The Westerdam docked in Sihanoukville on December 28, nearly four years after it made an emergency docking to allow its guests to disembark and return home amid worldwide quarantine orders in February 2020. Yesterday, guests were greeted with a visual display of the event, honoring the former PM for his decision to allow the ship to dock after it had been denied port in five countries due to Covid concerns.

While the World Health Organization praised the efforts of the former PM and his administration for the successful repatriation of the passengers, not everyone agreed with the decision. At the time, some critics remanded the decision as irresponsible and done for political gain, including human rights activist Kuol Panha.

Former Prime Minister Hun Sen took to social media upon the Westerdam’s arrival on Thursday to highlight the happy return of the ship, while also calling out those who doubted his decision. He said that he had potentially saved the lives of those on board and cited that the right to life was the ultimate human right.

“If Cambodia did not allow the ship to dock at that time, what would life have been like on the ship? How many would have died? How many are alive now?” he wrote. "I want answers from those who claim to be [for] human rights and democracy to answer these questions for me, from beginning to end. The right to life is the most important point, because if you die, what use are rights and democracy?"

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