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Rohingya in Cambodia to seek asylum

AGROUP of Rohingya in Cambodia seeking political asylum through the UN refugee office is facing food shortages after about five months in the country, according to news reports.

On June 7, Kaladan News, a Rohingya news agency, quoted one of the 32 asylum seekers, who arrived in January, as saying that the status of their applications was unclear, but that they were in dire need of food assistance.

“As an asylum seeker, we are unable to work for survival. If we are given refugee status we will get facilities, but now we are facing food crisis,” Mohamed Tayub reportedly said.

“All the asylum seekers had given interviews to the concerned authority, including UNHCR, and hope to get refugee status, but when we don’t know.”

Human rights groups say the Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, have faced frequent human rights violations from the country’s government, driving many to flee. Large numbers of Rohingya now live permanently in refugee camps in Thailand and Bangladesh.

Toshi Kawauchi, head of the Phnom Penh office of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), confirmed that the group had applied for asylum with the support of his office, but could not provide details about the current status of their applications.

“They are filing asylum applications to the government and to UNHCR,” he said, adding: “We are in touch with the group, and are talking about the food situation.”

He said that as a general rule, UNHCR tries to help wherever possible, but that assistance to asylum-seekers is distributed on a “case-by-case basis”.

“There is no standard assistance policy per se,” he said. “We are advising them, as we advise all asylum-seekers, that they can approach us or the government whenever they need emergency aid.”

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak and Mom Sophannarith, director of the ministry’s Refugee Office, could not be reached for comment Sunday.

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