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Cambodia Delegation Prepares To Visit Nauru Refugees

This photo supplied by Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship shows workers extinguishing the last smouldering embers after some125 asylum seekers rioted in Nauru, Friday July 19, 2013.

A delegation is preparing to fly to the Micronesian island of Nauru, to speak to refugees there that could resettle in Cambodia soon.

Some of the refugees on the island, who had sought to reach Australia, have begun a silent protest of potential resettlement to Cambodia by sewing their lips together and refusing food, the Phnom Penh Post reported.

Government officials will go there within a month, said Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior. “But this is not a trip to promote tourists to come to Cambodia,” he said ironically.

The trip comes after the signing of a controversial agreement with Australia, which has refused the take the refugees.

Officials from the ministries of the Interior and Foreign Affairs will go to Nauru to speak with those who want to come to Cambodia voluntarily, Khieu Sopheak said.

Local and international rights groups have been heavily critical of the deal, which they say goes against the spirit of resettlement arrangements, particularly since Cambodia does not have a lot of resources for the refugees.

Suon Bunsak, a leading member of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, said Cambodia should “reconsider” its agreement with Australia.

Some 1,000 asylum seekers are currently being held on Nauru. Many are from the Middle East or South Asia, but other nationalities include Indonesian and Vietnamese.