Interior Minister Sar Kheng has asked the United States to increase funding for Cambodian deportees to enable them to build a new life in the kingdom.
Mr Kheng met with Carl Risch, US assistant secretary of state for Consular Affairs, and other US embassy officials including the US ambassador to Cambodia at the Interior Ministry on Friday.
Cambodia agreed with the US’s request to continue the implementation of a 2002 memorandum of understanding that allows for the repatriation of Cambodians from the US, according to Mr Kheng’s cabinet officer Phat Sophanith.
“Samdech requested the US side to do whatever they can to increase support for Cambodians that need to be repatriated to Cambodia so they can be successfully integrated into society,” Mr Sophanith said.
Mr Kheng said Cambodia has not avoided taking back its citizens, but everything needed to be thoroughly reviewed first.
Mr Kheng also told Mr Risch he hoped the US would consider lifting visa sanctions on employees of Cambodia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry after the repatriation process began anew, according to Mr Sophanith.
Mr Risch said the US would consider withdrawing the sanctions once the process had begun.
Mr Risch will also travel to Thailand and Myanmar to meet with his counterparts to discuss a range of consular issues, including their international legal obligations to accept the return of nationals who have been ordered removed.
A US district judge, in a ruling on January 25, blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to immediately deport 92 Cambodian citizens still in custody in the US. The deportees had been previously convicted of criminal charges, ordered deported, and released from immigration custody, only to be rearrested years later.
US District Judge Cormac Carney ruled the Cambodians were not to be deported before they had been given the opportunity to have the legality of their convictions and deportations re-evaluated in court.
“It is disingenuous for the government to claim that throughout the many years that petitioners were permitted to live and work on supervised release, they should not have built up any expectation that they would be permitted to remain in the country,” he wrote.
Mr Risch said more than 600 Cambodians have been deported from the US since 2002.
“We had nine in December and two in January and in 2017, a total of around 40 people, and about 600 people since 2002,” he said.