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Tuesday, 17 August 1993
Page: 93

(Question No. 111)

Senator Chamarette asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 11 May 1993:

  With reference to a press article by Patrick Lescot of Agence France-Presse, of 25 April 1993 entitled `Pol Pot changes his name but not his goals':

  1. Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the article.

  2. What implications for Australia's assessment of refugee applicants from Cambodia has been drawn from the announcement by the Khmer Rouge that it will boycott the elections in that country.

Senator Bolkus —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

  1. Yes, I am aware of the article and of the public statements that were made by the Khmer Rouge prior to the elections in Cambodia.

  2. The position adopted by the Khmer Rouge in relation to Cambodia's transition to a democratic regime is regrettable but does not appear to have had a major impact on the election process. The massive voter turnout in the recent Cambodian elections indicates that this position has been rejected by the Cambodian people. The next stage of the peace process is about to commence with the convening of the democratically elected Constituent Assembly, in accordance with the Paris Agreements. This committee is to draw up a constitution within three months. The Assembly will then transform itself into a Legislative Assembly and a new government will be formed on the basis of the constitution.

  An important part of the settlement is the return of Cambodia to the Cambodians. Major decisions about the future of government of Cambodia should be made by the Cambodians. Obviously the international community will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide appropriate assistance. It should be noted that as part of the settlement the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has agreed to the appointment of a human rights representative for Cambodia.

  Australia has maintained a close interest in the development of democratic processes in Cambodia and will continue to monitor their effects, particularly from a humanitarian perspective.

  Australia assesses applications for refugee status on a case by case basis using the criteria defined by the 1951 United Nations Convention and the 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees. General situations such as war, or civil unrest, are relevant to the consideration of asylum claims only in so far as they relate to individual claimants and their own circumstances. Where individuals consider they are at risk in Cambodia the opportunity exists for them to have their refugee claims assessed. Applications for refugee status lodged by Cambodians are received and considered both in Australia and overseas.

  A wide range of information, including reports of current political and military developments in Cambodia such as that referred to by the honourable senator, is considered in reaching decisions on applications for refugee status from Cambodians.