Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called on the United States Thursday to end its practice of forcibly deporting convicts with Cambodian heritage to the Southeast Asian nation, a policy he said “splits up families.”
“We request an amendment to the agreement on deportation. Such deportation splits up families of our Cambodian people,” Hun Sen said at a speech at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh.
“When they are jailed in the U.S., their families are allowed to visit them in the prison. However, when they are deported, they are far apart (from their families). The Cambodian government needs to address this matter,” he said.
Under a 2002 agreement, which the Cambodian Foreign Ministry said remains in effect until renegotiated, some 500 convicted felons of Cambodian descent after serving their sentences have been repatriated to a country most have never visited with a language they do not speak.
On April 25, the Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesperson issued a statement saying that the agreement has been widely criticized in Cambodia and among Cambodian Americans but had not been discontinued.
“The spokesperson rejects any information that the above memorandum has been discontinued and wishes to emphasize that Cambodia wants to amend the above agreement commensurate with the values of humanity and compassion,” the statement said.
“The agreement shall remain in effect while both parties are discussing the amendment,” it said.
The AFP news agency, reporting from Phnom Penh, quoted a U.S. embassy spokesman as saying Washington was aware of Cambodia’s desire to amend the memorandum.
Reported by Sovannarith Keo for RFA's Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Paul Eckert.