cellcard cellcard

US crime repatriations on hold

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times Share:
US deputy assistant secretary of state Patrick Murphy agreed that discussions on the repatriation agreement were needed. KT/Mai Vireak

Cambodian heritage criminals convicted in the US will no longer be deported to the kingdom pending the revision of the repatriation agreement between the two countries, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said today.
The deportation of ethnically Khmer convicts, despitemost having very little connection to the country nor the ability to speak the language, has been a longstanding problem between the two countries.
“We have temporarily suspended the repatriation of Cambodians convicted in the US because we need to amend the repatriation agreement,” ministry spokesman Chum Sounry said during a press conference after meeting with US deputy assistant secretary of state Patrick Murphy.  
“The policy has long been criticized by Khmer people both in Cambodia and in the US. These deportees seem to be receiving double the punishment.
“The first punishment is their imprisonment in the US and the second is their being sent to Cambodia, away from their families, to be forced to live in a country they’ve never known. It is difficult for them to integrate into society,” he explained.
“We must show humanity and mercy in regards to sending these Khmer people to Cambodia, so it is necessary for us to amend the repatriation agreement.”
In 1996, new US federal laws drastically expanded the scope of deportable offenses in the US. Under the new laws, any noncitizen sentenced to one year in jail or more was subject to deportation.  
It was not until a 2002 agreement was signed between the Cambodian and American governments that deportations started. Cambodian-Americans and legal Cambodian residents with criminal records suddenly found themselves being given deportation orders.
The US government pressured its Cambodian counterparts to sign the agreement by threatening to limit the number of visas issued to Cambodian citizens in future, according to University of San Francisco Immigration Law Professor Bill Hing.  
However, the agreement went into effect without the need for legislative approval and can therefore be undone through an agreement between the two countries.
This year, Cambodia has agreed to receive 34 deportees, however only eight of them have been repatriated so far. From 2002 until last year, 549 people were forced to return to Cambodia, Mr. Sounry said.
“Mr. Murphy has also agreed that it is necessary to discuss the amendment of the repatriation agreement,” he added.
However senior minister Prak Sokhonn said that in principle, the Cambodian government would still receive any Cambodian citizens repatriated, adding the government will continue to work with the US to settle this issue.
Mr. Sokhonn suggested the government consider allowing Cambodian convicts the option to volunteer to be repatriated back to the kingdom instead.
During yesterday’s meeting, Cambodian and US officials also discussed tensions in the Korean Peninsula and in the South China Sea.  
“Cambodia’s stance is that shooting missiles and testing nuclear weapons by North Korea is in violation of the UN Security Council,” Mr. Sounry said.
“America also expressed that it fully respects Cambodia’s sovereignty and territory and will not interfere with Cambodia’s internal affairs.”
Mr. Murphy, in his brief address to the press, said yesterday’s meeting was positive and would improve bilateral ties between the two nations, adding the US hopes the upcoming commune elections will be conducted in a free and fair manner.
“The United States would like to see a very peaceful, free and fair electoral process this year and next year. We don’t take sides but we share a common democratic principle,” he said.

Previous Article

Soldier killed after pagoda dance

Next Article

Cambodia’s First Sailing Club Officially Launched