Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday expressed support for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh during a meeting with Myanmar’s Ambassador to Cambodia Thin Linn Ohn at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, where the two also discussed strengthening bilateral ties.
During the meeting, Mr Hun Sen told the Ambassador that Cambodia had its own experience in the repatriation of about 300,000 Cambodian refugees from Thailand after achieving peace following a turbulent civil war that drove thousands to leave the Kingdom in 1990s.
“The Royal Government of Cambodia always supports the repatriation of refugees in Bangladesh to return to Myanmar,” Srey Thamrong, Minister Attached to the Prime Minister, said in conveying Mr Hun Sen’s words from the meeting.
As reported by Reuters last month, Bangladesh and the United Nations are consulting Rohingya refugees to determine if they will accept Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s offer to return home, nearly a year after a major repatriation plan failed.
Reuters reported that more than 730,000 Rohingyas fled Rakhine state in August 2017 for camps in Bangladesh after a military-led crackdown the UN said was perpetrated with “genocidal intent”.
The report added that on August 22, officials from both countries said 3,450 refugees have been cleared for repatriation. However, many refugees refused to go back, fearing more violence.
Kin Phea, director-general of the International Relations Institute at Royal Academy of Cambodia, yesterday echoed Mr Hun Sen’s support on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees.
“It is an experience that we can share with Myanmar that Cambodia had also experienced the repatriation of thousands of Cambodian refugees from Thailand,” Mr Phea said. “Secondly, Cambodia is a member of Asean, so through the regional framework, it support’s Myanmar’s decision.”
In addition to discussing repatriation of refugees, Mr Hun Sen and Ambassador Thin Linn also discussed strengthening cooperation across all sectors between Cambodia and Myanmar.
“Our two countries have forged relations for a long time, and next year marks the 65th anniversary of the establishment of relations between the two countries,” Mr Thamrong said, quoting Mr Hun Sen.
“We should look at what we will do to celebrate the 65th anniversary, especially whether we should work on some agreements that could be signed to expand cooperation across all sectors, such as economy, commerce, investment and tourism,” he added.
Mr Thamrong said Mr Hun Sen and Mr Thin Linn also discussed strengthening economic cooperation, including boosting bilateral trade.
He told reporters that Mr Hun Sen urged Myanmar to increase trade between the two countries, which is still small, with trade volume standing at about $10 million a year.
In response, Mr Thin Linn said he will continue to strengthen ties and expand cooperation during his mission in Cambodia.
“I will make the effort to fulfil my duties, especially to improve relations and cooperation between both countries,” Mr Thamrong said, quoting Mr Thin Linn in the meeting.
Mr Thin Linn also noted that with the 65th anniversary approaching, he will work on improving cooperation in commerce, tourism and student exchange programmes.