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PM asks US for ‘humanitarian’ shift in deportation policy

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Prime Minister Hun Sen held a bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the recent ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh. SPM

PM asks US for ‘humanitarian’ shift in deportation policy

Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that the US consider amendments to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the deportation of Cambodians who committed offences in the US. He said he proposed the amendments on humanitarian grounds.

The premier raised the deportation issue – mostly involving Cambodian-Americans who were jailed in the US and repatriated to the Kingdom upon their release – during his bilateral meeting with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the recent ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh.

Speaking at the closing ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of mine action in Cambodia, held in Phnom Penh on November 22, he said he had proposed that the US, at the very least, only implement the MoU that was signed in 2002.

“I asked the US not to return any more foreigners. Once, they deported two Laotians to Cambodia,” he said, noting that the MoU only applies to Cambodians living in the US.

“Some of the deportees committed suicide and some have died of other causes. Some of them were born in the US, but after serving their prison sentence, they were repatriated to Cambodia. Their families – parents, spouses and children – are all in the US,” he said.

“So we request that the US look at amending the MoU, in light of the humanitarian aspects of the issue. So far, their only response is to accuse us of failing to cooperate with them and to place visa sanctions on several of our foreign ministry officials.”

He noted that when he raised the topic, the US president responded that he did not have a clear understanding of the issue and would ask his officials to brief him.

Back in 2017, the US discontinued issuing B1/B2 visas to top foreign ministry officials and their families, citing reasons that Cambodia was not cooperating in the repatriation of its citizens.

While meeting with Daniel Kritenbrink, US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific affairs, Cambodia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn expressed his disappointment at the US stance.

“Cambodia is unjustly regarded as failing to cooperate on these deportations. This is why some senior officials’ visas have been declined,” he said.

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