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Cambodia to Accept More Refugees Next Month


A van carries four refugees from Phnom Penh International Airport on June 4, 2015. They were part of an earlier refugee deal with Australia.

A van carries four refugees from Phnom Penh International Airport on June 4, 2015. They were part of an earlier refugee deal with Australia.


A mixed group of refugees is set to arrive in Cambodia next month under an agreement with Australia.

Three refugees from Iran and a Rohingya from Myanmar will arrive in October as part of the agreement. Reports say Cambodia will receive as much as $40 million in aid from Australia in exchange for accepting the asylum seekers.

The refugees have been living temporarily on the Pacific island of Nauru. They are second group to go to Cambodia.

Khieu Sopheak is with Cambodia’s Interior Ministry. On Monday he spoke about the refugees and their expected arrival time. “The ministry is sending officials to interview them (in Nauru),” he said.

Details of the agreement between Australia and Cambodia have mostly been kept secret. But many human rights groups are critical of the deal. So are religious groups and opponents of the ruling parties in both countries.

Elaine Pearson is the Australia director of the rights group Human Rights Watch. “The reality is Cambodia is both unsafe and [unprepared] to handle large numbers of refugees,” she told the Reuters news service.

This new group of refugees would only be the second group Cambodia would accept under the deal. The first group arrived in June. One member of that four-person group has already asked to return to Myanmar, the country which he fled.

The deal has received increased criticism now that Australia just agreed to accept 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Critics say that Australia is not treating all refugees equally.

The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association is the country’s oldest human rights group. Ny Chakrya, a rights officer for the group, said, “There should be no discrimination like this. Australia has shown its discrimination.”

Some observers believe that more than 600 refugees and asylum-seekers are living on Nauru. Manus Island in Papua New Guinea is holding hundreds more under a different agreement with Australia. Most of these people are from countries in South Asia and the Middle East.

The United Nations Refugee Agency says the deal between Australia and Cambodia is in conflict with the main ideas of the refugee convention. This international agreement defines who is a refugee and how they should be treated. Both countries signed this treaty in the past.

I’m Bob Doughty.

Neou Vannarin reported on this story for VOANews.com. Pete Musto adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

spokesmann. someone who speaks for or represents a person, company, etc.

interviewv. to question or talk with (someone) in order to get information or learn about that person

realityn. the true situation that exists

discriminationn. the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people

conventionn. a formal agreement between two groups

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