Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng said the 149 Cambodian fishermen who were stranded in Malaysia amid the Covid-19 pandemic will not return home as documentation is being prepared for them to work there legally.
He said the Cambodian embassy in Malaysia is also working with its counterpart to repatriate 73 Cambodian prisoners from there.
Speaking during a press conference on Monday, Bun Heng said the repatriation was postponed after Malaysia shut down its airports to contain the pandemic.
“The fishermen no longer want to come to Cambodia for fear of losing their jobs. They are now willing to stay there to earn a living. For the inmates’ [repatriation], our embassy is working on it,” he said.
He said a notice of their return will be made public when an exact date has been set.
In its notice on Monday, the embassy said Malaysia had allowed Cambodians and other stranded foreigners to prolong their stay without being fined or blacklisted.
It said foreigners whose visa expires from January 1 could do so until Malaysia lifted the lockdowns and would be allowed to depart within 14 days.
Foreigners whose extended visa expires from February 1 could have it renewed at the nearest immigration office within a maximum of 30 days.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Koy Kuong could not be reached for comment on Monday.
In late April, Prime Minister Hun Sen said the government would welcome the return of the fishermen and inmates once Malaysia lifts its travel ban.
“Thank you for your understanding. We all, both at home and abroad, must remain vigilant. It’s best to avoid importing the contagious disease from abroad and person-to-person transmission,” he said.