Cambodians protest refugee deal outside Australian embassy

Canberra plans to send its unwanted refugees to be resettled in Cambodia - a country considered one of the least developed and most corrupt in Southeast Asia.

Cambodians protest refugee deal outside Australian embassy

World Bulletin / News Desk

About 100 Cambodians protested in front of the Australian Embassy on Friday against Canberra's plan to send its unwanted refugees to be resettled in Cambodia – a nation activists consider one of the least developed and most corrupt in Southeast Asia.

Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison is scheduled to sign the highly contentious accord with Cambodian officials this afternoon, a move rights groups and Australia's Greens Party say is akin to Australia shirking its own responsibilities by "dumping" refugees in a third country.

Activists gathered in front of the embassy - which was cordoned off by police clad in riot gear - holding signs reading "Australian [and] Cambodian governments 'official traffickers'" and "Shame Tony Abbott [the Australian prime minister]. No refugee deal."

"We see the current shortfall of Cambodian development today," protest organizer Mao Pises, who is also the president of a civil society organization known as The Federation of Cambodian Intellectuals and Students, told the Anadolu Agency.

"Cambodia in all aspects is poorer than Australia, so how can Cambodia treat refugees better than Australia."

Pises said that the AUS $40 million ($35 million) in aid promised by Australia to Cambodia in exchange for the refugee deal would only serve to increase corruption in one of the most kleptocratic countries in the region.

"We believe the upcoming aid from the Australian government will add and increase corruption in Cambodia," he told AA.

Abbott was elected last year after he pledged to "stop the boats." Papua New Guinea and Nauru in the South Pacific already have detention centers housing thousands of asylum seekers - many of them Muslims from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, China and Myanmar - stopped on their way to Australia and refugees in these centers have repeatedly held protests against conditions there.

Critics are concerned about the plan to resettle asylum seekers in Cambodia given its own chequered history when it comes to accommodating refugees.

In 2009 Cambodia deported 20 Uighur asylum seekers back to China where they were subsequently given lengthy jail terms. China subsequently pledged $1 billion-worth of investment to Cambodia.

In a statement released ahead of the deal this week, the Greens Party accused the Abbott government of using Cambodia as a "dumping ground," while Human Rights Watch warned that "Cambodia is... ill-equipped to handle large numbers of refugees who will be given one-way tickets to Phnom Penh."

Last Mod: 26 Eylül 2014, 10:10
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