Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - US hauls in more than 100 Cambodians for potential deportation




US hauls in more than 100 Cambodians for potential deportation

Recent deportees from the US photographed earlier this year in Battambang province.
Recent deportees from the US photographed earlier this year in Battambang province. Tang Chhing Sothy/AFP

US hauls in more than 100 Cambodians for potential deportation

More than 100 Cambodian permanent residents have been detained by American immigration officials in a spate of round-ups over the past two weeks, even as Cambodia and the United States continue negotiations over the Kingdom’s reluctance to accept deported Cambodians who have been convicted of crimes.

Katrina Dizon Mariategue, an immigration policy manager at the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center in Washington, DC, said the organisation is tracking more than 100 Cambodians who have been arrested and sent to a detention centre in California in “one of the bigger round-ups” the group has seen.

“Many families are understandably distraught,” Mariategue said in an email. “Many have kids, are in fear of losing their homes, some have expressed thoughts of suicide.”

The US has been deporting Cambodian nationals convicted of felonies back to the Kingdom since 2002. The programme became a flashpoint in Cambodian-US relations after the Kingdom temporarily stopped accepting deportees, leading the US to impose visa sanctions on top Cambodian Foreign Ministry officials in August.

In retaliation, Prime Minister Hun Sen last month ordered the suspension of cooperation in the recovery of the remains of American servicemen missing in action since the Vietnam War.

A Ministry of Interior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, yesterday confirmed that the government was aware that roughly 100 Cambodians had been recently detained in the US, and said that Cambodian and US officials met last week to discuss the repatriation programme.

David Josar, spokesman for the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, confirmed that representatives from the US and Cambodia met “recently” to continue discussions on the repatriations.

The programme has been criticised for being unfair to deportees, most of whom are refugees who were brought to the US as small children and have never been to Cambodia.

Bill Herod, the founder of the Phnom Penh-based Returnee Integration Support Center, said more than 560 Cambodian nationals have been deported to the Kingdom since the memorandum of understanding was signed in 2002.

“Some are doing very well. Some are going to court this afternoon for a street brawl. Some are in prison. Twenty-seven are dead,” Herod said. “All are getting a life sentence for the dumbest thing they did as a teenager.”

The dispute has caused concern at the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, whose chairman and CEO Ann Mills-Griffiths sent a letter to the prime minister last month saying it would be “personally disappointing” if the POW/MIA recovery programme was not reinstated, citing the “inaccurate perception that the United States is attempting to change your government”.

Hun Sen publicly responded with a letter on Saturday, stating that Cambodia had been “unjustly sanctioned” by the US.

In the letter, the premier said Cambodia “will resume this cooperation as soon as we receive credible and mutual assurance of lifting of suspension” of visas.

In a statement yesterday, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Brendan Raedy said international law “obligates each country to accept the return of its nationals ordered removed from the United States”.

According to ICE, at least 534 potential deportees are waiting for travel documents from Cambodia, with some requests stretching back to 2008.

Additional reporting by Kong Meta

The previous headline on this article implied that the Cambodians detained by American immigration officials were going to be deported. In fact they have been called in for interview. The Post apologises for any confusion caused.

MOST VIEWED

  • Hungarian exposes 90 to Covid in Siem Reap

    The Ministry of Health has discovered 90 people who have been exposed directly or indirectly to a Hungarian man infected with Covid-19. They all are required to quarantine at home and the hospital. The ministry is searching for other affected people. Among the 90, one is the

  • PM warns of ‘new Cold War’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the possibility of a so-called new Cold War has become a significant concern and that all countries have to reject outright, any attempt to allow history to tragically repeat itself. He made the remarks in a speech during 75th Session

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • Cambodia, CRF win rice battle in EU Court

    The European General Court has rejected the European Commission’s (EC) request to reject a complaint submitted by Cambodia and the Cambodian Rice Federation (CRF) regarding the EU’s reintroduction of tariffs on Indica rice exports from Cambodia. A court order uploaded to the European

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,