Prime Minister Hun Sen announced yesterday that Cambodians who had taken refuge in the United States after 1994 were to return to the kingdom as the Trump administration tries to restrict immigration.
“Now the US wants us to repatriate them,” he said, adding that Cambodia could have an agreement with the US to receive those living there illegally.
Mr Hun Sen said the government must think of its people and will be well prepared to receive them.
The announcement comes at a time when the US is withdrawing from the United Nations agreement to establish international rights for migrants.
Last month, US Ambassador to Cambodia William Heidt met Interior Minister Sar Kheng to discuss the deportation of Cambodians convicted of crimes in the US as well as the issue of Cambodians who arrived in country after 1994.
Mr Kheng said Cambodia would work to resolve this case, and asked the US to appoint officials to work with immigration police to resolve the issue.
“As the Prime Minister of Cambodia, I declare we will welcome our brothers and sisters from the US, and I will not allow anyone to mistreat any of you,” Mr Hun Sen said to a gathering of thousands of garment workers.
Mr Hun Sen said he will not let Cambodian people suffer like other nation’s refugees.
However, the Prime Minister asked the US to provide airfares for all of them, as well as financial aid for several months or a year.
He ordered the Foreign and Interior Ministries to work to resolve this issue and negotiate with their US counterparts.
Chum Sounry, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman, said there were no figures of Cambodians living in the US, including illegal migrants.
In recent months, Cambodia asked the US to amend the repatriation agreement, while the US imposed visa restrictions on Foreign Affairs Ministry officials in August over the government’s alleged lackluster cooperation in repatriation of Cambodians convicted of crimes.
According to the prime minister, between 2002 and today, about 600 people had been sent back to Cambodia.
National Public Radio reported that dozens of Cambodians with deportation orders would board a plane to Cambodia in the next two weeks.
The American Embassy in Phnom Penh declined to comment.