6 June 2024

A cruise ship with over 2,000 people on board and which has been denied entry by three countries is now on its way to Cambodia after Thai authorities said it would not be allowed to dock in Thailand, its operator reported Wednesday evening.

Holland America Line said on its twitter that the Westerdam cruise ship was heading toward Sihanoukville seaport in southwestern Cambodia and was expected to arrive there at 7am.

It said the Cambodian government has granted permission for the ship to dock and to remain at Sihanoukville port for several days for disembarkation and replenishment.

“All approvals have been received & we are extremely grateful to the Cambodian authorities for the support,” it said.

The cruise ship has been at sea for more than 20 days and has been refused permission to dock in Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Guam.

The circumstances under which the ship was allowed to enter Cambodia were not immediately clear.   But Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia has been openly showing solidarity with the Chinese government in the face of the deadly virus outbreak.

Hun Sen refused to have Cambodian students in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak, and flew to Beijing last week and was personally greeted by President Xi Jinping who described him as a friend in need.

The ship, which left Hong Kong on February 1st, has already been refused entry to the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan and Guam, for fear that the passengers may be carrying the novel coronavirus.

The ship has 1,455 passengers and 802 crew members on board.  Some of the passengers have been sending out on-line messages to insist that none of those on board is infected with the deadly virus.  There were 21 Thais among those on board.

In Thailand earlier there were confusing reports about the status of the cruise ship.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha declared that Thailand would not allow the cruise ship to dock at the port but would provide it with necessary supplies such as fuel, food and water.

Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul insisted today that while Thailand doesn’t ignore humanitarian consideration it also gives priority to safety of Thai people.  He said it still could not be definitely established that  passengers on board were infected with the virus.

The Marine Department today, however, confirmed that the cruise ship had not yet sought permission to enter Thailand.