Opponents to a potential agreement with Australia for Cambodia to take its unwanted refugees say it would lead to further human rights abuses for refugees.
The two countries are reportedly in talks on the issue, though no deal has yet been signed. Officials say an agreement will be reached soon, however.
Critics say Cambodia isn’t ready to accept more refugees.
“How can Cambodia protect the refugees?” Nhay Chamroeun, a lawmaker for the Cambodia National Rescue Party, asked on “Hello VOA” Friday. “As a member of parliament, I’m trying my best to urge the government to respect human rights more than ever.”
Any agreement with foreign countries should pass through debate at the National Assembly, he said. This reported deal has not, he said. “The government is doing it on its own.”
Refugees have already likely experienced rights abuses in their own countries and then fled, he said. “And they hope when they arrive in another country, that country will give them protection. The most important thing I’m looking at is that Cambodia has its own human rights abuses.”
Am Sam Ath, senior investigator for the rights group Licadho, said Cambodia is not ready to deal with refugees. “Their will was to go to Australia, and when they are sent to another country, it’s not their will,” he said. “So both Cambodia and Australia are not respecting the [United Nations] refugee convention.”
Cambodia already needs a lot of aid to function, he said, and accepting more refuges will be an additional burden. They must have jobs, housing, places of worship, schools and other basics, he said. “It seems that Cambodia is not ready yet,” he said. “It needs to help our own children first before helping others eat.”