Australians stand with Cambodians against refugee deal

ON FRIDAY, October 17, more than a thousand Cambodian people, monks, students, victims of land eviction and representatives of unions and non-government organisations, will march on Phnom Penh’s streets to demand the abolition of the refugee resettlement deal signed by Cambodian and Australian governments to permanently resettle refugees from Nauru to Cambodia.

Protesters will deliver their petitions to the Cabinet, National Assembly, the Australian and American embassies, the United Nations and the European Union. They are seeking local and international intervention in cancelling this agreement which they say is not beneficial to either the Cambodian people or the refugees.

The protest organizer, Mao Pises, Present of Federation of Cambodian Intellectuals and Students (FedCIS) says: “We do not discriminate any refugees coming to live in Cambodia, but I’m afraid that they will not be able to live in a dignity because Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world; the situation can be worst than their homeland country.

Nowadays, many Cambodians are living in poverty and their children could not access education and without proper health care. All public services in Cambodia are much poorer than in Australia, including education, job opportunities (many Cambodians have migrated to Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, etc. to find jobs), health care, human rights (many Cambodians are suffered from been forced eviction and land grabbing), and corruption.

“The Cambodian government doesn’t take enough care of its own people, how can they take a good care of those refugees? I think Cambodian government and Australian government are jointly abusing the rights of those refugees if they still continue implementing the resettlement deal which they countersigned on 26 September. Cambodia is not the right place for them to resettle for the time being.”

Eang Vuthy, Executive Director of Equitable Cambodia, points out: ” We call upon the Australian Government to uphold its international obligation and respects the rights of refugees. We also call upon the two countries to reconsider this deal and ensure that adequate support and protection are provided to these refugees.”

Joyce Fu of Corner Link, an organisation based in Australia with experiences working in Cambodia says: “More than half of Cambodian people are currently living under $2 USD per day. The entire country lacks access to some basic infrastructures, such as clean water, electricity and transportation.

“How could Cambodia take Australian refugees when it is creating refugees in its own country due to land grabbing from sugar cane and rubber plantation, dams and railway building and so-called urban development?”

Ian Rintoul, of the Refugee Action Coalition, comments: “This is a dirty deal which ignores Australian humanitarian obligations to provide protection to refugees. Cambodia is unable to properly support even its own citizens. We should not be shifting our responsibilities on to desperately poor countries, effectively bribing them to cooperate with Australia to undermine international human rights treaties.”

Dianne Hiles of ChilOut notes: “Much of Australian Civil Society stands with the Cambodian people on this cause. We condemn the Abbott government’s inappropriate, immoral and probably illegal deal. Cambodia is perceived as the 17th most corrupt country in the world, according to the Transparency International Corruption Index.

“The capacity of public education cannot cope with Cambodians’ own demand. It is most unlikely that aid funding (an extra $40 million over next 4 years) will be properly allocated to support the people, including children, it is intended for.”

We want to send out a strong message to the world: “This is not in our name!”

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Ryan Fritz

Ryan Fritz started The Advocate in 2014 to provide not-for-profits and charities with another media platform to tell their worthwhile hard news stories and opinion pieces effortlessly. In 2020, Ryan formed a team of volunteer journalists to help spread even more high-quality stories from the third sector. He also has over 10 years of experience as a media and communications professional for not-for-profits and charities.

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