Lindsay Murdoch

SOUTH-EAST ASIA CORRESPONDENT FOR FAIRFAX MEDIA

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng sign an agreement to resettle refugees from Australia to Cambodia
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng sign an agreement to resettle refugees from Australia to Cambodia Photo: Getty Images
Bangkok: The United Nations has no plans to boost its presence in Cambodia despite the Abbott government's claim it is working "closely" with the agency in a controversial plan to resettle refugees there.
"There are no plans to expand our two-person office in Phnom Penh at this point," said Vivian Tan, a spokeswoman for the agency in Bangkok.
The UN's refusal to react immediately to the plan, which it has described as a deeply concerning precedent, comes as Cambodian officials play down the possibility of any refugees being sent by Australia within months, possibly years, despite Australia having already committed $40 million in additional aid to the country.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres says the Cambodia deal is a worrying development.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres says the Cambodia deal is a worrying development. Photo: Reuters
Cambodia's Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said his country wants to take far fewer refugees than expected after an initial pilot program that could involve only a handful of people.
"It would be 20 or 10 or 50 or 100 or something like this. Not 1000 as people have said," Mr Khieu Sopheak told the Phnom Penh Post.
After Australia's Immigration Minister Scott Morrison sipped champagne to celebrate the agreement in Phnom Penh last weekend, Cambodian officials have detailed a long process before any refugees are resettled in villages and communes outside the capital Phnom Penh.