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No immediate plan to change returnee policy

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Deputy Assistant US Secretary of State Patrick Murphy (centre) and US Ambassador William Heidt (left) attend a meeting on Tuesday at the Foreign Ministry in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

No immediate plan to change returnee policy

Despite the Foreign Ministry reiterating its request to suspend and renegotiate its repatriation agreement with the US – which allows for the deportation of Cambodians with criminal convictions living in the States back to the Kingdom – the timetable for such a plan remains uncertain.

The Cambodian government first requested a temporary halt to the practice of deporting Cambodians – many of whom have been living in America since childhood – at the end of February. Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn repeated the position at a meeting with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy on Tuesday.

US Embassy spokesman Jay Raman yesterday said the joint commission will “convene in the coming months”.In the meantime, 31 Cambodian citizens are still slated for deportation and have been approved for repatriation by the Interior Ministry.

Kem Villa, director of the Returnee Integration Support Centre, lauded the government’s position but did not know when or if an amendment to the agreement would happen.

“I’m pretty optimistic but I just don’t know,” he said.

Tep Chandara, a father of three who was deported in 2011, saw the recent statements as a positive step. “I feel that the Cambodian government is on the right page . . . Cambodia can do whatever it wants and this is the right side of human rights,” Chandara said.

additional reporting by keo rattana

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