THE government is in the final stages of talks with Australia about sending refugees from a detention centre in the South Pacific to resettle in Cambodia, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official has told Australian media.
Ouch Borith, secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told ABC News in a segment that aired yesterday that the working group tasked with considering Australia’s proposal had finished studying the plan and was preparing to make a counter-offer.
“So far, the working group already finished [its] studying on the draft proposed by Australia, and I think that maybe soon, maybe a few days, maybe next week ... we’ll send our counter-proposal to the Australian side,” he said.
But Borith would not divulge how much the Australian government was willing to pay or how many refugees could eventually be resettled here.
“I cannot let you know exactly the number of the refugees that I can receive, because for one, if we decided to receive refugees, it will be our responsibility to take care of all the refugees that come to Cambodia,” Borith said.
He added that the Cambodian government’s plan to take on refugees from Australia’s detention centre in the Republic of Nauru was a “different story” from its treatment of Uighur asylum seekers, which he called “illegal immigrants”.
Last month, Borith said that Cambodia had agreed to Australia’s proposal “in principle.”
He also denied that that the deal would financially benefit the government.
Australia's immigration minister, Scott Morrison, met with Interior Minister Sar Kheng in Phnom Penh on April 3 to discuss the deal following a controversial request by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in February for Cambodia to take in some of its refugees.
Morrison yesterday told Macquarie Radio that Cambodia was “taking our proposal seriously.”
“What this is all about is ensuring we have got more countries in the region actually participating in resettlement,” he said.