As governments across the region scrambled to respond to initial news of the coronavirus outbreak last month, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Asia’s longest-serving dictator, didn’t flinch. He saw an opportunity. While other countries enforced restrictions on Chinese travelers, Hun Sen sought to reassure not his citizens but Beijing, which he depends on for political and financial support. “Please continue our cooperation with China. Do not ban flights from China. Do not ban China’s sea transportation, and do not ban Chinese tourists,” he said at a press conference on Jan. 30.
Days earlier, Cambodia had recorded its first and only confirmed case to date: a 60-year-old Chinese man who had flown from Wuhan, where the outbreak began, to Sihanoukville, a casino town booming with Chinese investment.