PHNOM PENH —
A Rohingya refugee who recently came to Cambodia as part of a controversial resettlement deal with Australia, is preparing to leave.
Kem Sarin, head of the refugee program under the Ministry of Interior, told reporters Monday the man had contacted the Embassy of Myanmar with a request to return. Once the embassy makes an official announcement, “Cambodia will issue an exit visa,” he said. “The refugee will be able to leave later to his motherland.”
Kem Sarin said the refugee’s decision would not impact the broader agreement between Cambodia and Australia, to bring in more refugees currently held on the South Pacific island of Nauru.
The agreement between the two countries states that refugees have a right to return to their home countries, he said. He provided no motives for the refugee’s decision to return to Myanmar, also known as Burma, where the Rohingya people are heavily persecuted.
Kristin Dadey, a migrant assistance specialist with International Organization of Migration, declined to comment on the return, citing confidentiality for the refugee.
Meanwhile, it remains unclear how many more refugees might come to Cambodia through the agreement. The deal, for which Cambodia received a reported $55 million in aid from Australia, has been sharply criticized as counter to international asylum tenets. Cambodian officials have said they currently have no plans for more, but Australian officials say the agreement is still in place. There have been no reports that the other three in Cambodia—all from Iran—have plans to leave.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, said the Rohingya’s decision to return the country he had fled ought to be a message to other refugees considering resettlement in Cambodia—a country with its own rights abuse and economic problems.
“We still have to improve all these things first, before we accept other refugees,” he said. “We should not look at money as the big factor. We can’t accept refugees without making thorough considerations of their lives and their rights.”