US Wants Deportations to Continue, Foreign Minister Says

The U.S. has told Cambodia to continue accepting Cambodian citizens deported from the U.S., despite repeated requests to renegotiate a repatriation agreement between the two countries, Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn said on Monday.

“We made the request to halt deportations so that we can discuss more, but the U.S. didn’t respond and wants us to continue to accept [deportees],” Mr. Sokhonn told reporters after arriving in Phnom Penh following meetings with U.S. officials and Asean foreign ministers in Washington on Thursday.

Foreign Affairs Minister Prak Sokhonn speaks at a news conference at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Phnom Penh on last year. (Khem Sovannara)

“We will continue to accept the deportees,” he said.

For months, officials have expressed Cambodia’s desire to amend the 2002 repatriation agreement to make it more humane and deportations voluntary.

“We just want to do something to make the deportees’ lives liveable in Cambodia,” Mr. Sokhonn said on Monday. Deported Cambodians should have the right to visit their families in the U.S., he said.

Cambodia also asked the U.S. to consider establishing a center where deportees “may stay for a period of time to learn the Khmer language, traditions and receive vocational training,” according to a Foreign Affairs Ministry statement released on Monday.

During a bilateral meeting on Thursday, Mr. Sokhonn and U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly discussed how the two nations could better cooperate on repatriations for those convicted of crimes, among other issues, the ministry statement says.

So far this year, the U.S. has deported 21 Cambodians who served prison sentences for felony crimes in the U.S. More than 550 Cambodians—many who came to the U.S. as child refugees—have been deported since 2002.

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