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World Trump thanks Cambodia over ship in rare message to China-ally

08:20  15 february  2020
08:20  15 february  2020 Source:   reuters.com

Cruise ship turned away in other ports anchors off Cambodia

  Cruise ship turned away in other ports anchors off Cambodia A cruise ship turned away by other Asian and Pacific governments due to virus fears anchored Thursday off Cambodia, which is checking the health of its 2,200 passengers and crew. The Westerdam was unwelcome elsewhere even though operator Holland America Line said no cases of the COVID-19 viral illness have been confirmed among the 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members on board.

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SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump has thanked Cambodia for taking in the castaway cruise ship MS Westerdam in a rare message to a country that is one of China's closest allies and has often been at odds with Washington.

a group of people on a boat: FILE PHOTO: Passengers onboard MS Westerdam, a cruise ship that spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries over fears that someone aboard might have the coronavirus, are seen in Sihanoukville© Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun FILE PHOTO: Passengers onboard MS Westerdam, a cruise ship that spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries over fears that someone aboard might have the coronavirus, are seen in Sihanoukville

Five countries turned away the Westerdam, worried its passengers could be carrying the coronavirus despite it having no known cases before Cambodia's authoritarian prime minister, Hun Sen, agreed the passengers could disembark there.

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Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is a strong ally of China and has played down any threat from the new coronavirus in his country. He had declined to ban direct flights to China , a step taken by other governments and airlines. Cambodia has confirmed just one case of the virus, in a Chinese visitor.

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"Thank you to the beautiful country of Cambodia for accepting the @CarnivalCruise ship Westerdam into your port. The United States will remember your courtesy," Trump tweeted late on Friday.

a large crowd of people: Passengers wave their towels as they are about to leave MS Westerdam, a cruise ship that spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries over fears that someone aboard might have the coronavirus, as it docks in Sihanoukville© Reuters/SOE ZEYA TUN Passengers wave their towels as they are about to leave MS Westerdam, a cruise ship that spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by five countries over fears that someone aboard might have the coronavirus, as it docks in Sihanoukville

The Westerdam, operated by Carnival Corp. unit Holland America Inc, docked in the port of Sihanoukville on Thursday after being shunned for two weeks. Its 1,455 passengers began to disembark on Friday to head home.

The passengers were tested regularly on the ship and Cambodia also tested 20 once it docked. None were found to have the new coronavirus that has killed more than 1,500 people, the vast majority in China.

Hun Sen has often sparred with the United States over its accusations of human rights abuses and its condemnation of a crackdown on the opposition since 2017.

He has brought Cambodia much closer to China, which has provided billions of dollars in aid and in loans for infrastructure projects as well as standing by Cambodia in the face of Western criticism.

(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Writing by Matthew Tostevin; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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