Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison was in Phnom Penh on Thursday to meet with unnamed Cambodian government officials, Australian media reported.
His trip follows a February visit by the country’s foreign minister that saw the Cambodian government asked to take in asylum seekers intercepted while making their way to Australia.
Mr. Morrison was in Phnom Penh following a trip to Papua New Guinea to discuss the processing and resettlement of 1,296 asylum seekers held at an Australian-run detention center on the country’s remote northern Manus Island, according to The Australian newspaper.
The newspaper quoted Mr. Morrison as saying that he is in Cambodia to follow up on Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s February visit. At that meeting, Ms. Bishop asked Prime Minister Hun Sen to consider accepting refugees stopped while trying to reach Australia.
“It is following on from the foreign minister’s visit and further discussion on regional cooperation issues,” Mr. Morrison said of his trip.
Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said after the February 22 meeting in Phnom Penh that the Cambodian government was considering Australia’s request.
“[Ms. Bishop] met with the prime minister and she raised the issue of sending to Cambodia asylum seekers who have gone to Australia,” he said at the time. “Previously it’s been Cambodians who have sought asylum in other countries; now maybe it is time that Cambodia accept asylum seekers.”
Officials at the Foreign Ministry and Interior Ministry could not be reached for comment Thursday. Mr. Morrison’s office in Canberra did not respond to an emailed request for comment.
Mr. Morrison earlier Thursday told reporters that refugees held in Papua New Guinea found to have legitimate claims will begin resettlement there in June.
The government of Papua New Guinea has said it will only resettle some refugees held there, asking other countries to share the burden.
willemyns@cambodiadaily.com
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