Israel: 323 Cambodians Evacuated to Safe Zone, 131 Others Still in Red Zone

This photo shows Prime Minister Hun Manet gives speech on Oct. 10. Hong Sodaneth (front of right upper photo) with other 7 female students and Thon Thamrat (right below photo) from the Royal Unversity of Agriculture. Photo: Hong Sodaneth, Thon Thamrat and STPM

PHNOM PENH – Among the 454 Cambodian citizens known as being in Israel, 323 have been relocated to a safe zone, away from the areas where fights opposing the Israeli army to Hamas forces are taking place.

However, a total of 131 Cambodians are still in areas considered dangerous, said Prime Minister Hun Manet at the launch ceremony of the National Strategy for Informal Economy Development 2023-2028 on Oct. 10.

The prime minister claimed that the government and relevant authorities will work hard to rescue the remaining Cambodian people. But they first have to precisely locate each of them before being able to transfer them to a safe place.

Rescuing and relocating the Cambodian people is the government’s top priority, added Hun Manet, especially as most of them are students.

But repatriating them to Cambodia is not yet on the agenda. Former Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Oct. 9 that the government should not bring Cambodian nationals back from Israel, especially as no joint decision between the two countries has been made.

Nevertheless, if Cambodia comes to consider repatriation as the best option, it will not hesitate to charter special flights to bring its citizens back, he added.

Hun Sen also asked Hamas to release all of the hostages, of which 10 are Thai nationals. He said that there are “no benefits for [them] in keeping those hostages. I’d suggest negotiations [between relevant parties].”

Updated situation of Cambodia students in Israel

Thon Thamrat, a student from the Royal University of Agriculture, is one of the Cambodians who is staying in a safe zone in Gal’on, about 40 kilometers from the attack area. He is there along with another Cambodian student from the same university. Both of them arrived in Israel only two days before the attack, which started on Oct. 7.

He said not all the students that he knows of have been moved to a safe area. But he pointed out that the Israeli government is evacuating those in the most dangerous zones first for their safety.

He said that they have been instructed to follow the instructions provided by the Israeli authorities, both at the national and local levels.

“There is enough food for us, and the Israeli authority also transfers food to other Cambodians – who are not students – in other areas as well,” he said. 

Hong Sodaneth, another student from the Royal University of Agriculture, said she and 7 other female students are staying in the safe rooms and under the protection of the Israeli army​ and police.

The eight students are all from the Royal University of Agriculture and are interns for the 2023 program. They arrived in Israel last month to start their internship.

“I am in the Sderot area, and the situation is quiet, except for the sound of the rockets from Gaza once in a while. But it does not harm our safety here,” she told Cambodianess on Oct. 10.

“We are safe here because there are Israeli police and army protecting the border area all days and nights,” she added. “The government and the RUA are always following up with the students’ situation in different areas regularly.”

She said that the students have requested Israel’s authorities to be evacuated to a safer zone as they are aware of the situation in their location, which borders the Gaza Strip, where the fights started last weekend.

“However, for the safety of those in Israel, the Israeli and Cambodian governments have not decided on anything yet for now,” she said.

“I trust both governments and am hoping that I will be taken back home soon. However, we will stay here if there is no plan yet,” she added. 

Terrorist attacks broke out on Oct. 7 when Hamas forces launched hundreds of rockets at Israel and slaughtered people in areas close to the Gaza Strip. They also took over 100 people as hostages back into Gaza.

The Israeli army has quickly started a military operation to fight back after Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said the country was “at war”.

Fights on both sides have killed more than 1,300 people in two days, according to Al Jazeera and several news agencies.

A Cambodian student named Chan Oudom died in the first hours of the fights launched by Hamas forces. He had arrived in Kibbutz, near the Gaza border, for his studies in veterinary science two weeks before the war started.

The news saddened the entire country and the Cambodian government claimed on Oct. 8 to take full responsibility for bringing Oudom’s remains back home after having talked on the phone with Oudom’s family.

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