Nigerian monkeypox patient faces jail sentence, deportation in Cambodia

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Twenty-seven-year-old Nigerian, Osmond Chihazirim who fled from Phuket, Thailand to Phnom Penh, Cambodia after being infected with monkeypox will be charged with immigration offences in Cambodia and later deported.

According to Khmer Times, General Keo Vannthan, spokesman for the Immigration Department at the Ministry of Interior, said the Nigerian would be charged with illegal entry and also under disease control laws, he would serve a sentence and then be expelled from the country.

“He will face punishment for breaking Immigration laws, as well as laws concerning infectious disease outbreaks,” Gen Vannthan said.

Authorities are planning to take criminal action against the Nigerian man as a deterrent to other foreigners from acting in a similar manner. The decision for legal action came about after Chihazirim was announced monkeypox-free by the Ministry of Health on Saturday.  According to the Immigration law under Article 29, ‘any foreigner who without authorisation, entered the Kingdom of Cambodia clandestinely or fraudulently or by any other illegal means whatsoever, contrary to the provisions of the law, shall be subjected to imprisonment for three to six months prior to his being expulsion out of the country’.  It also states that ‘those who assisted, or helped concealing, in order to bring those illegal foreigners without authorisation into Cambodia, shall be subjected to the same jail sentence’.  Health Ministry spokeswoman said that the health officials have already handed him over to the Immigration authorities, and now he is outside the purview of the Ministry of Health. She added, however, that he still needs to remain in quarantine for another seven days. She noted that despite the man’s recovery and with no other cases detected, the public must also be cautious, and protect themselves against the virus.

“Those who doubt they have signs of monkeypox should go to the nearest health centre right away,” she said.

Meanwhile, Gen Vannthan noted that the Nigerian man is being held in isolation at the Immigration office under police supervision for a week.

“He is currently staying in the police station under our close observation, and the legal action will be processed after his quarantine is over,” he said.

The Nigerian had been living in Phuket as a visa overstayer. He fled Thailand to Cambodia in July after tests confirmed he had been infected with monkeypox. He illegally entered Cambodia in Banteay Meanchey province, which adjoins Sa Kaeo in Thailand.

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