Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - More than 50 US deportees expected in Cambodia on Thursday



More than 50 US deportees expected in Cambodia on Thursday

People in the US protest the deportation of Cambodian-Americans in 2016. A new group of nine deportees is expected on Thursday. Ikare
People in the US protest the deportation of Cambodian-Americans in 2016. A new group of more than 50 deportees is expected on Thursday. Ikare

More than 50 US deportees expected in Cambodia on Thursday

The US is deporting 51 Cambodians who are expected to arrive in the country on Thursday, the single largest group of deportees in the history of the contentious 15-year repatriation program.

The group is expected to include deportees with chronic mental and physical health conditions, according to 1Love Cambodia, a support group for the returnees.

“We’ve been informed that contrary to US agreements, this group includes people with chronic mental and physical conditions that will require our community’s unwavering support,” the group said in a statement on its Facebook page. “We are hurt and enraged to say the least.”

Immigration chief Sok Phal could not be reached on Tuesday. However, Kim Vanny, a check-in official at Pochentong Airport in charge of arrivals, confirmed that officials are preparing to receive the returnees, but noted that the numbers can sometimes change.

“Sometimes the seniors change their mind and agree to not send,” Vanny said.

“So to be clear, on the day, they send their names to the airport. [Then] we will know [for] sure that they are coming.”

Brendan Raedy, a spokesman for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to comment. “Due to operational security, ICE does not comment on future removal flights until they have been completed,” he said.

As many as 200 Cambodians are expected to be deported from the US this year. By comparison, the Returnee Integration Support Center, now known as the Khmer Vulnerability Aid Organization, has received some 550 returnees over the past 15 years.

Most of the deportees entered the US as refugee children fleeing the Khmer Rouge with their families, and many have never been to Cambodia and don’t speak Khmer.

The deportation program created a diplomatic rift between the US and Cambodia last year after Cambodia stopped issuing travel documents to most of the deportees, prompting targeted visa sanctions by the US.

In February, US Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Carl Risch said visa sanctions on top Cambodian foreign affairs officials could be lifted “in the near future” if the Cambodian government followed through on promises to again accept returnees.

Jimmy Hiem, a member of 1Love Cambodia, said the group is collecting donations for “starter kits” for the returnees, such as portable stoves, pots, pans and toiletries.

Hiem, who was deported to Cambodia one and a half years ago, said he found the transition difficult with no relatives in the country and speaking little Khmer. He still does not have an ID, he said.

“There is a life after America, in my opinion,” Hiem said. “But they just have to not give up, and that’s what we’re trying to do, [to] help them navigate Cambodia.”

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia on the verge of national tragedy, WHO warns

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia warned that the country had reached another critical point amid a sudden, huge surge in community transmission cases and deaths. “We stand on the brink of a national tragedy because of Covid-19. Despite our best efforts, we are

  • Phnom Penh curfew starts today

    A two-week curfew from 8pm to 5am starts today in Phnom Penh, a day after a sub-decree detailing administrative measures to contain Covid-19 was issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen. “Travelling in Phnom Penh is temporally banned between 8pm and 5am,” said Phnom Penh governor

  • Vaccination open to foreigners in Cambodia

    The Ministry of Health on April 8 issued an announcement on Covid-19 vaccination for foreigners residing and working in Cambodia, directing the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training and local authorities to register them. Health minister Mam Bun Heng, who is also head of the inter-ministerial

  • Cambodia gears up for muted New Year festival

    The recent curfew and restrictions imposed in the capital and other Covid-19 hotspots were intended to break the chain of transmission, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said as municipal and provincial authorities issued new directives banning certain activities during the upcoming Khmer New Year

  • Covid-19 vaccination now obligatory

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on April 11 issued a sub-decree making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for individuals unless they have a medical certificate proving they have pre-existing health conditions that prevent them from doing so. «This applies to all members of the armed forces and civil servants

  • Culture ministry: Take Tuol Sleng photos down, or else

    The Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts has told Irish photographer Matt Loughrey to take down the photos of Khmer Rouge victims at Tuol Sleng Genocidal Museum which he allegedly colourised and altered to show them smiling. The ministry said Loughrey's work is unacceptable, affecting