Rohingya Asylum Seekers Not Going Hungry, UN says

Asylum seekers from the ethnic Rohingya people who are currently in Cambodia are not in dire need of food assistance, contrary to media reports, a UN official said yesterday.

“We personally visit the refugees and asylum seekers to precisely assess their well-being,” said Cristina Planas, a special adviser to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok.

“No such matter has been brought to my attention,” Ms Planas said of the reported lack of food, adding that a UNHCR representative had visited the Rohingya refugees as recently as last week.

“We visit them. It’s not that we wait for the news to rain down on us,” she said.

An English-language report on June 7 in the Rohingya news agency Kaladan quoted asylum seekers as saying they are running out of food.

“As an asylum seeker, we are unable to work for survival,” Mohamed Tayub was quoted as saying. “If we are given refugee status we will get facilities, but now we are facing a food crisis.”

The group of 32 Rohingyas arrived in Cambodia in January and have since applied for asylum, according to Ms Planas.

“They have registered and applied and interviewed with the government of Cambodia [agency] that is responsible for processing their application, in the presence of the UNHCR,” she said.

Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Persecution and human rights violations against Burma’s Rohingyas, which are an ethnic Muslim group, have persisted for the last 20 years, according to Human Rights Watch.

During those two decades, Rohingyas have fled to refugee camps in neighboring Bangladesh, and every year thousands are smuggled into other Southeast Asian countries, according to the New York-based group.

In December, Cambodia deported to China a group of 20 Uighur asylum-seekers, which prompted criticism around the world.


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