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Rohingya refugee still waiting on trip home

A Rohingya refugee who has chosen to leave Cambodia rather than stay as part of a controversial resettlement deal with Australia will have to wait at least another 20 days to return to Myanmar, a government official said yesterday.

Interior Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak said Cambodian authorities had arranged an exit visa for the refugee but had been told by Myanmar authorities that the necessary paperwork was still being processed.

“He’s waiting for the passport or travel documents from Myanmar,” Sopheak said. “The paperwork is in Yangon.… 10 days ago they said at least one month.”

Earlier this month, Second Secretary at the Myanmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs Moe Htet Kyaw confirmed that the refugee, one of four to arrive under the deal in June, had requested through the embassy on August 7 to return home.

The revelation came amid reports the A$40 million ($28 million) deal to settle refugees held by Australia on the island of Nauru was in jeopardy after only four arrivals.

However, the Cambodian government has since revealed four more volunteers, including another Rohingya, who they will soon interview.

Starting from last year, thousands of Muslim Rohingyas in Buddhist-majority Myanmar have fled the country – where they are denied citizenship – in a bid to escape pervasive discrimination.

Speaking yesterday, Ian Rintoul, spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition, said that without very specific arrangements, the repatriation did not appear something that could work in practice.

The Myanmar Embassy did not respond yesterday.

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