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

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

    Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29. These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16

  • PM: Do not defile Tonle Sap swamp forest or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered police to arrest anyone – including government officials – involved with the deforestation of the flooded forests surrounding the Tonle Sap Lake because it is an area important to the spawning of many species of fish, among other reasons. Speaking in a