Vietnam ramps up border control as Cambodia's coronavirus crisis deepens

By Cuu Long, Phuoc Tuan, Hoang Nam, Huu Cong   April 24, 2021 | 05:30 am PT
Vietnam ramps up border control as Cambodia's coronavirus crisis deepens
A patrol group of the An Giang provincial border guard forces do their job. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Nam.
Vietnam is ramping up border control at its southwestern borders next to Cambodia as the coronavirus crisis deepens inside the neighboring country.

Kien Giang Province, which shares a 56 kilometer land border with Cambodia and has a 200 kilometer shoreline, has seen many migrants enter Phu Quoc Island illegally via the sea route recently. The provincial People's Committee said over 103,000 Vietnamese are residing in Cambodia, with around 1,700 living in three Cambodian provinces bordering Kien Giang.

Due to its close proximity with Cambodia, the Kien Giang Steering Committee for Covid-19 Prevention and Control said border control is the foremost priority in the coronavirus fight. A total 48 border stations have been erected in Ha Tien Town, which shares 14 kilometer land border and 26 kilometer shoreline with Cambodia, supported by 24-hour patrols.

Nguyen Luu Trung, deputy chairman of Kien Giang People’s Committee, said disease prevention measures were still in place, but it has since prepared for worst-case scenarios by building field hospitals with up to 500 beds.

Ho Chi Minh City's Cho Ray Hospital and Pasteur Institute have been requested by the Ministry of Health to provide medical workers and establish Covid-19 testing labs in Ha Tien and Kien Giang general hospitals too.

Cambodia has been suffering a spike in infections following its latest wave in late February. Its caseload had jumped to over 8,800 with 61 deaths as of Saturday.

There had been just around 400 infections until last year, but 655 on Friday alone, 446 on Thursday and 303 on Wednesday.

The country’s capital, Phnom Penh, and a satellite district went into lockdown on April 15 and declared some districts as "red zones," banning people from leaving their homes except for medical reasons.

In An Giang Province, which shares a 100 kilometer land border with Cambodia, there are only two official border gates. But the province has many less-traveled paths, which require provincial authorities to keep their guard up, maintaining 200 border patrols with around 2,000 personnel to keep illegal entrants out.

Nguyen Thuong Le, head of An Giang border guard forces, said the province has persuaded 33,000 families living near the border to sign documents to guarantee no illegal entry and exit. Since the beginning of this year, the province has found over 600 people trying to illegally enter the country and have put them all into quarantine.

Long An Province, which shares a 130 kilometer border with Cambodia, is currently maintaining 40 border stations and patrols. Since the beginning of this year, authorities discovered over 130 illegal entry and exit cases, 95 of whom were foreigners.

Pham Tan Hoa, deputy chairman of the provincial People's Committee, said its border once had 36 border stations, but they encountered challenges when the rainy season came. As such, the province has built an additional 13 stations funded through multiple sources and with land donated by citizens to help patrols with their job, he added.

Tay Ninh Province, which shares the longest border with Cambodia of all, at around 240 kilometers, currently has 123 border stations with over 600 personnel on duty.

Nguyen Thanh Ngoc, chairman of the provincial People's Committee, said the province has deployed multiple measures to prevent illegal entry and exit, including handing out rewards for those who report illegal entry and exit cases and monitoring motorbike taxi services near the border.

Tay Ninh receives and quarantines up to 30 people from Cambodia each day on average, said Ngoc. It has also prepared over 3,000 beds for quarantining, he added.

"To make the Covid-19 fight more effective, the province has supported three Cambodian provinces bordering Tay Ninh (Svay Rieng, Tbong Khmun and Prey Veng) with medical equipment using the state budget," he said.

In a meeting with leaders from 10 localities bordering Cambodia on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam requested Covid-19 prevention measures to be ramped up to prevent the disease from entering the country.

"If those infected manage to enter the community and participate in events with large gatherings, the consequences would be unpredictable," he said.

Dam also said the government would prefer Vietnamese abroad to restrict traveling. If one needs to return to Vietnam due to dire circumstances, they would need to declare themselves so authorities could receive and quarantine them, he added.

He also agreed that those illegally entering Vietnam need to be dealt with in accordance with the law, while stressing that quarantine measures need to be well-implemented to prevent cross-infection in quarantine zones.

Under pandemic prevention protocols, a person entering Vietnam needs to be quarantined for 14 days. Illegal entrants are those sneaking through unmanned paths to evade quarantine.

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