Days after the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced it would help resettle Australia’s refugees currently being held on the Pacific island nation of Nauru in Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday acknowledged criticism of the deal at home and abroad.
In September, Cambodia agreed to accept an indeterminate number of refugees in return for a $35-million aid package from Australia in a deal that was slammed by rights groups and opposition lawmakers in both countries.
On Monday, the IOM—a global body that facilitates humane and orderly migration—said it had accepted a request to assist in the resettlement.
Speaking at a conference in Phnom Penh on Thursday, Mr. Hun Sen reiterated the government’s stance that only those refugees who volunteer to come to Cambodia would be relocated.
“I speak frankly, Australia met me and asked to bring in a number of refugees. Some have criticized it in Australia, and it’s also been criticized in Cambodia,” the prime minister told the audience.
“I will do it based on a voluntary principle. The numbers who come, we [will] accept them. If not, it is based on a voluntary principle, so nobody will force them to come,” he said.