Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sokhonn raises issue of returnees with US official

Sokhonn raises issue of returnees with US official

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Deputy Assistant to the US Secretary of State Patrick Murphy (right) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sakhonn attend a meeting yesterday at the Foreign Ministry in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Sokhonn raises issue of returnees with US official

With tensions between the US and Cambodia running high in recent months, Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhonn met with a visiting US State Department official yesterday, taking the opportunity to once again request a reworking of a controversial repatriation agreement that has seen America to deport hundreds of Cambodians back to the Kingdom.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Murphy declined to take questions after his meeting with Sokhonn, telling reporters he and Sokhon had a “very nice discussion”.

Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry said Sokhonn reiterated a desire that America cease deporting Cambodians with criminal convictions under the current agreement, which was inked in 2002.

“It is necessary to amend the agreement because there have been criticisms from people in Cambodia, from Cambodian people in the US, and the people sent back because they are victimised twice,” said Sounry.

The deportation agreement has been criticised as a violation of human rights, with detractors pointing out that, despite not holding US citizenship, many of the Cambodians being forcibly returned were born in refugee camps, grew up in America and have no ties to the Kingdom.

Earlier this month, eight deportees arrived in the capital, and more than 550 have arrived in Cambodia since 2002.

Murphy’s visit coincides with a war of words between the two governments, with Prime Minister Hun Senrepeatedly demanding that US President Donald Trump forgive an outstanding pre-Khmer Rouge debt and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs having released a document this month accusing the US of being part of a campaign of misinformation against Cambodia’s human rights and democracy track record.

According to Sounry, neither the debt nor the document were discussed during the meeting.“Sokhonn told [Murphy] that Cambodia really appreciates all kinds of aid and assistance from the US to Cambodia over the past two decades,” he added.

That aid, however, may be in question, as a leaked budget proposal shows plans to drastically cut foreign aid to scores of countries, including Cambodia.

Murphy also met yesterday with opposition leader Kem Sokha, who presented a “balanced picture” of both the positives and negatives of Cambodia’s current political climate, Murphy said.

Sokha’s cabinet chief, Muth Chantha, said that Murphy expressed some concerns about the “negative” aspects, but would not elaborate on them.

“The US will seriously look into the situation to see if the opposition party could operate freely and . . . without harassment,” he added.

MOST VIEWED

  • Ministry issues warning over coronavirus outbreak

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday asked the public to be on “high alert” as a new virus wreaks havoc across Asia. However, no cases have been reported in the Kingdom thus far. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has raised the alarm for its similarity to

  • First case of coronavirus reported in the Kingdom

    Cambodia reported its first case of the deadly 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) on Monday, Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng announced. He said medical specialists detected the virus in a Chinese tourist in Sihanoukville. The minister said Jia Jianhua, 60, travelled from Wuhan city, where the outbreak

  • PM urges precaution amid virus outbreak

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday called on all Cambodians to bump up precautions to avoid contracting the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that has already killed more than 50 people in China. The prime minister told the public to remain calm but alert about the possibility of

  • Gov’t slams NGO over 2019 corruption report

    The government on Thursday slammed a report that described the Kingdom as highly corrupt. Government spokesperson Phay Siphan dismissed the latest Transparency International (TI) report as “just an advertisement of NGOs to promote their own interests”. Released on Thursday, the report puts Cambodia near the

  • Gov’t answers garment buyers’ complaint

    Some of the biggest buyers in the Kingdom’s garment sector have urged Prime Minister Hun Sen to address issues faced by unions and workers – a request a senior official said was out of touch with the situation on the ground. The letter addressed to

  • App to connect farmers to millions

    The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has soft-launched a mobile app that connects farmers with potential buyers and gives them access to critical market information. The ministry’s Agriculture Marketing Office chief Meach Yady said the ‘CamAgriMarket’ app gives farmers a platform to showcase