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Cambodia 'ready for more refugees'

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Prime Minister Hun Sen and Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton shake hands at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh following their meeting on Wednesday. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Cambodia 'ready for more refugees'

Cambodia is "ready to accept more refugees," a minister attached to Prime Minister Hun Sen said Wednesday after a meeting between the premier and Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton in Phnom Penh.

The talks, confirmed to the Post by Sri Thamrong, came only days after it was revealed that a Rohingya refugee who moved to Cambodia under the agreement said he wanted to return to Myanmar and media reports circulated that the controversial refugee settlement deal was on shaky ground.

"We are ready to accept more refugees…We will send our officials, a team from Ministry of Interior, to interview them," Thamrong said. "Both [Hun Sen] and the guest [Mr. Dutton] want to have more refugees to come ... on a voluntary basis."

Dutton declined to comment on the meeting on Wednesday evening, saying only that he planned “to make a very positive statement in the morning.”

In exchange for $28 million in aid and an additional $10.8 million to cover resettlement costs, Cambodia agreed last September to host refugees held in the Australian-run detention camp on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru.

However, only four out of 677 refugees – three Iranians and the Rohingya – have so far agreed to the transfer.

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak and Refugee Department director Kem Sarin could not be reached, but Sarin said on Monday that as the agreement in its current form is valid for four years, “if … there is any problem, each party can inform each other about changes or termination”.

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