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Australia resettles Cambodian activist’s family as refugees


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CANBERRA, Australia — Australia has accepted the family of a murdered Cambodian political activist as refugees, a lawmaker said Tuesday, as the Australian government encourages its rejected refugees to resettle in Cambodia.

Kem Levy’s wife and five children arrived in the Victoria state capital, Melbourne, from Thailand on Saturday, state lawmaker Hong Lim’s office said.

Kem Ley was shot dead in a convenience store in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, in July 2016, and his family escaped to a Thai refugee camp.

Alleged gunman Oeut Ang was sentenced by a Cambodian court last year to life in prison after he confessed to shooting the activist for failing to repay a personal debt.

There was speculation that Oeut Ang was a scapegoat, and that the murder was politically motivated because of Kem Ley’s caustic commentaries about Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government.

Last week, exiled former Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy questioned the prospect of Australia resettling the slain activist’s family when Australia continues to pay Cambodia to accept refugees that Australia holds in the Pacific island nation of Nauru.

Australia has stopped asylum seekers from attempting to reach its shores by boat by refusing to accept them and banishing all boat arrivals to Australian-run immigration camps on Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Australia agreed in 2014 to pay Cambodia $35 million over four years to resettle an unspecified number of asylum seekers held on Nauru.

Only seven refugees took up the offer and reportedly only three remain there.

“It would be very embarrassing to accept refugees from Cambodia when you want to send refugees to Cambodia,” Rainsy told the National Press Club in the Australian capital, Canberra.

The United States is in the process of resettling up to 1,250 of Australia’s refugees from Nauru and Papua New Guinea.