Cruise pas­sen­gers land a er two weeks at sea

The Borneo Post (Sabah) - - Front Page -

Pas­sen­gers on a cruise ship that was turned away from ports around Asia over fears they could be car­ry­ing the new coronaviru­s fi­nally be­gan dis­em­bark­ing in Cam­bo­dia yes­ter­day.

Pas­sen­gers on a cruise ship that was turned away from ports around Asia over fears they could be car­ry­ing the new coronaviru­s fi­nally be­gan dis­em­bark­ing in Cam­bo­dia yes­ter­day.

Cam­bo­dia’s strong­man premier Hun Sen wel­comed around 100 tourists who were handed flow­ers and scarves as they stepped ashore af­ter an un­cer­tain two weeks at sea.

The Wes­ter­dam was sup­posed to be tak­ing its 2,257 pas­sen­gers and crew on a 14-day cruise around east Asia, be­gin­ning in Hong Kong on Feb 1 and end­ing to­day in Yoko­hama, Ja­pan.

But the ves­sel was barred by Ja­pan, Guam, the Philip­pines, Tai­wan and Thai­land over fears it was car­ry­ing some­one with a new virus that has now killed around 1,400 peo­ple and sick­ened 64,000, mostly in China.

Cam­bo­dia — a staunch Bei­jing ally that receives huge sums of Chi­nese money ev­ery year — an­nounced this week that the boat could dock in Sihanoukvi­lle.

Dozens of ju­bi­lant pas­sen­gers took ad­van­tage of their new­found free­dom and vis­ited a nearby beach, while some hugged Hun Sen — Cam­bo­dia’s ruler for 35 years — as they dis­em­barked. One man even kissed the ground.

“Cam­bo­dia pays more at­ten­tion to hu­man rights... we respect the rights of the more than 2,000 peo­ple on the boat,” Hun Sen said, rel­ish­ing the rare pos­i­tive fo­cus on a lead­er­ship more com­monly ham­mered for rights abuses.

“We don’t have wealth like a rich coun­try but we have sym­pa­thy for the pas­sen­gers stranded on the ship.”

All pas­sen­gers will be al­lowed to dis­em­bark af­ter no cases of the coronaviru­s were found aboard.

Christina Kerby — who has been post­ing light-hearted up­dates from the ship since the or­deal started — said she was ‘in tears’ over the warm re­cep­tion.

“The show of sup­port is over­whelm­ing,” she tweeted.

Cam­bo­dia receives bil­lions of dol­lars in soft loans, in­fras­truc­ture and in­vest­ment from China, which dis­penses it with no ques­tions asked over hu­man rights abuses in the coun­try.

Hun Sen, Asia’s long­est serv­ing leader, has been vo­cal in his praise of Bei­jing’s han­dling of the epi­demic, which be­gan in the Chi­nese city of Wuhan late last year.

Un­like most Western na­tions, he re­fused to evac­u­ate ci­ti­zens from the epi­cen­tre, in­sist­ing that Cam­bo­di­ans should show their sup­port for the Chi­nese.

Last week, he trav­elled to Bei­jing to meet with Premier Li Ke­qiang and Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping in a show of sol­i­dar­ity. — AFP

Cam­bo­dia pays more at­ten­tion to hu­man rights... we respect the rights of the more than 2,000 peo­ple on the boat.

Hun Sen

— AFP pho­tos

A ju­bi­lant pas­sen­ger re­acts as he dis­em­barks from the Wes­ter­dam cruise ship in Sihanoukvi­lle.

Pas­sen­gers who dis­em­barked from the Wes­ter­dam cruise ship get on a bus in Sihanoukvi­lle.

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