Asia Street: What Does Cambodia’s New Covid-19 Decree Mean?

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What Does Cambodia’s New Covid-19 Decree Mean?

April 6, 2021

The Phnom Penh skyline (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons).

The BGA Cambodia Team, led by Managing Director Bora Chhay, recently wrote an update to clients about the implications of Cambodia’s Covid-19 subdecree. The subdecree, which was approved March 31, holds implications for the country’s broader political and economic landscape as well as businesses operating within it.

Context

The approval of the decree was fast, coming just 20 days after the government promulgated the law. That speed came as no surprise: it follows a community outbreak on February 20 and the emergence of a new, fast-spreading and deadly Covid-19 variant, which has already claimed Cambodian lives with community infections in the thousands.

Significance

The measures in the new decree are significant. Effective April 1, curfews have been high-risk areas, with travel, nonessential business activities and gatherings suspended from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. in Phnom Penh. Authorities said the curfew will last no more than two weeks and claimed that the measures will protect public health, maintain order and minimize the spread of Covid-19 and its impact on the social and economic sectors, helping them keep ahead of the upcoming Khmer New Year from April 14-16.

Beyond the measures themselves, the decree has also raised broader questions. Human rights activists have expressed concern that the subdecree restricts freedom and has vague provisions that will allow authorities to arbitrarily punish individuals and businesses. Government officials have defended the bill, arguing that it is necessary to combat Covid-19 and noting that other moves, including a state of emergency law enacted last April, have yet to be enforced because the government is weighing the potential impact on the country’s economy carefully.

Implications:

Beyond Phnom Penh, there may be directives or restrictions issued in other parts of the country.  This is particularly the case in provincial capitals with Covid-19 hotspots.

Companies operating in Cambodia should be prepared to fall back on business continuity plans in response to potential disruptions. These include restrictions on the trade of goods and access to buildings, offices and other areas.

The BGA Cambodia team will continue to monitor developments as they occur. If you have any comments or questions, please contact BGA Cambodia Managing Director Bora Chhay.