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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - US agencies quibble over KR diplomat

US agencies quibble over KR diplomat

A former Khmer Rouge diplomat has been living in the United States after his

diplomatic status expired.

The New York Times this month disclosed that

Thiounn Prasith - who represented the Khmer Rouge at the United Nations from the

late 1970s until 1991 - was living in the New York suburb of Mount

Vernon.

The Times quoted Prasith as saying he was living in the US

legally, and had given up politics to devote the rest of his life to his

family.

The presence of Prasith - who the Times reported had been close

to KR leader Pol Pot and had defended his regime before the UN - has upset some

Khmer-Americans.

Prasith was the KR's UN representative at a time when

the world recognized a coalition of three oppositions groups - the KR, Funcinpec

and the KPLNF - as the legitimate Cambodian government following the Vietnamese

ousting of the KR.

As such, Prasith was given a base in New York and a

diplomatic passport.

The KR's withdrawal from the UN elections agreed

under the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement saw him lose his position.

Following

the Times' article, the US State Department confirmed that Prasith was living in

the US. However, deputy spokesman David Johnson said the department had no role

in deciding to allow Prasith to stay in the US.

But Reuters reported that

the US Immigration and Naturalization Service said it had no knowledge of

Prasith.

"We could not find any verification that this individual was

admitted to the United States or that there had been any adjustment of his

status. This man is not in our system," spokesman Dan Kane said.

He

maintained that any decision about Prasith's immigration status would have had

to have been approved by the State Department.

The New York Times

reported that Prasith, as a prominent former KR official, was of interest to the

State Department-funded Cambodian Genocide Program.

The program is

investigating genocide under the KR's 1975-79 rule.

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