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The Cambodian foreign minister appeals to countries to work together to fight COVID-19
PHNOM PENH—Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn has called on ASEAN and the United States to discuss ways to ensure the openness of regional and global supply chain and flow of essential goods including medical supplies during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Sokhonn, who is also deputy prime minister, made the call while taking part in the ASEAN-US Foreign Ministers Special Meeting on COVID-19 via videoconference on April 23, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said in press release on the outcome of the meeting.
“ASEAN and the US should explore ways to strategically ensure the openness of regional and global supply chains as well as the cross-border flow of vital goods, especially food and medical supplies,” he said.
According to the release, Sokhonn also called for the need to move to more action-oriented exchanges of technical expertise and knowledge, and to pro-actively explore joint research and development in medicine while recognizing the importance of sharing information, experience and best practices in clinical treatment to combat the pandemic.
The Cambodian top diplomat also mentioned the role of the media to fight against the increasing spread of fake news during this global crisis. “We need to enhance collaboration from the media outlets to stop the spread of misinformation that could cause panic, discrimination and accusation,” he said.
Sokhonn told the meeting of Cambodia’s efforts to minimize the negative impacts of the pandemic on the economy as well as to prepare for the recovery phase by keeping factories running and thus preventing workers from losing their jobs. For this part, Sokhonn stressed, Cambodia needs US support.
“To sustain that in the long run, support from the US, which is Cambodia’s major trading partner, is of utmost importance,” his statement read.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who co-chaired the meeting with Laotian Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith, said that ASEAN are enduring strategic partners as [Asean and the United States] respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and plan for economic recovery. The United States commits to continue collaboration with ASEAN to beat this pandemic and get back to the business of building a bright future for the region, he said.
In his statement, Pompeo thanked ASEAN members for their valuable support in promoting the continued flow of vital medical supplies into the United States, as well as the support that has been provided to enable the repatriation flights of US citizens.
“For example, Vietnam expedited clearances for charter flights to deliver 2.2 million personal protective suits to the United States, and we expect more shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the coming weeks,” he said. “Additionally, since the beginning of April, Malaysia facilitated the speedy delivery of over 1.3 million kilograms of gloves for U.S. healthcare workers. Cambodia [last February] helped Americans safely return home from the Westerdam cruise ship.”
The United States will continue to provide generous support to ASEAN nations to assist in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic while urging all countries to embrace full and transparent information sharing, he added.
During the meeting, Pompeo announced the US-ASEAN Health Futures initiative whose goal will be to enhance the efforts in health security through research, public health and training the next generation of ASEAN health professionals.
“To date, the United States has released more than $35.3 million in emergency health funding to help ASEAN countries fight the virus, building on the $3.5 billion in public health assistance provided across ASEAN over the last twenty years,” the statement read.