Nauru refugees reach Phnom Penh


Cambodia Daily reports the arrival and settling-in of the first refugees from Nauru (three Iranians and a Rohingya). Photo shows the villa they get put in. Not too seedy, but not for forever, either.

The Daily’s article says the villa is “adorned with large red arrows” – eh?

The villa is down on the southern outskirts of the city, a bit over 3km from the Royal Palace (i.e., city centre). Not far really. No idea what plans there are for the post-settling-in phase.

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“I feel a bit scared about the refugees staying here, because I don’t know about their character or attitudes,” said An Sophat, 62, who has a roadside stall about 20 meters from their home.

Ms. Sophat said that she had not received any warning about their arrival, and was taken aback when they showed up in her neighborhood.

“Yesterday, I saw a lot of cars coming here and I was surprised, I wondered what was happening,” she said. “I saw the cars of the IOM, they drove the foreigners into that building.”

Like Ms. Sophat, another resident of the area, Hun Dany, 23, said that she was apprehensive about the new arrivals.

“If I met them outside my home, I could talk with them, but I could not invite them into my home because I don’t know them properly, so I don’t know whether to believe they are good or not,” she said.

But Hang Raksmey Phalla, 31, who lives next to the compound, said she was unconcerned about the presence of the refugees in the area.

“I feel fine about this, because Cambodians also go to live in other countries,” she said.

Asked if she would welcome the group into the community, Ms. Phalla, who works at the Ministry of Water Resources, said “I will observe them first.”

Sunny Cambodia, the Tasmania of Asia


The Guardian explains Australia’s Cambodia option. (Click on the image for a bigger version)

Cambodia as dictatorship, violent crime and grinding poverty is the stuff of tourist cliches. And it’s highly unlikely that the cartoon is right when it says people will end up living in houses with dirt floors and no plumbing – in my time in Phnom Penh I’ve seen a steady upgrading of the housing stock, including in the slums. Which is not to deny that the “fact”-sheet being handed out to the refugees on Nauru is anything other than fantasy.  Anyway, the first planeload is supposed to arrive Monday.

Australia sends refugees from Nauru to Cambodia

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 8.24.32 PMDeputy prime minister of Cambodia Sar Kheng and Australia’s minister for immigration Peter Dutton signed a memorandum of understanding on migration in March. Photograph: Mike Bowers for the Guardian

The Guardian has just reported that a plane is standing by to send the first refugees from Nauru to Cambodia, and they could arrive within days. It says  the refugees who opt for resettlement (these are all voluntary) will be housed “in the style of serviced apartments.” What does that mean – they’ll have someone to do the cleaning and make the beds? Still, I do expect that their life in Cambodia will be pretty good, since the aim will be to entice those still on Nauru to sign up.


This is the letter being handed out to refugees on Nauru:

“The opportunity to settle in Cambodia is now available to you. The first flight from Nauru to Cambodia for refugees will be as soon as 20 April 2015. Moving to Cambodia provides an opportunity for you and your family to start a new life in a safe country, free from persecution and violence, and build your future.”

“Cambodia is a diverse country with multiple nationalities, cultures and religions. They enjoy all the freedoms of a democratic society including freedom of religion and freedom of speech.”

Errrr … multiple nationalities, cultures and religions? Almost one hundred percent Cambodian, Khmer and Buddhist would be closer to the truth. Quite a lot of the refugees are Afghans, Iraqis, Iranians, Rohingya from Burma, and Sri Lankans (the last group are at least Buddhist) And all the freedoms of a democratic society? Someone’s stretching the truth a little.

It goes on: “Cambodia is a safe country, where police maintain law and order. It does not have problems with violent crime or stray dogs.” Stray dogs? But, yes, I’ve never been bothered by stray dogs.

File under “Society”, also under “Watch”.

Khmer Rouge Tribunal funding: worth it?

E1CBD863-8888-42FA-9EE5-E453AF1901D2_w640_r1_sSo Australia has just committed another $3 million to the Khmer Rouge tribunal, bringing Canberra’s total support to date to $24 million, second only to Japan.

Since the Tribunal began in 2006 it’s secured just one conviction, the notorious Deuch, in charge of the torture centre at Tuol Sleng on street 113. Two more cases are in the works with verdicts due on 7 August. And that’s it. One case completed, two more almost so. Not that you’d realise it if you read the UN press release: “Important progress has been made”, it says.

Personally I’m not convinced. Those eight years have cost $155 million in foreign donor funding. That’s well over $50 million per case. Plus another $50 million from the Cambodian side.

Where has it all gone? Mostly on expensive international lawyers.

Could it have been spent instead on schools, roads, clinics and other things?

Is anyone, anyone at all, apart from the lawyers, getting value for money out of this?

This afternoon I’m going to a book launch, Hybrid Justice, by John Ciorciari and Anne Heindel. Apparently the authors “examine the contentious politics behind the tribunal’s creation, its flawed legal and institutional design, and the frequent politicized impasses that have undermined its ability to deliver credible and efficient justice and leave a positive legacy.” (That’s from the blurb at Amazon).