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Former Cambodian PM Seeks to Restore Visa to Visit U.S.

Dit Sokthy / Khmer Times Share:

Pen Sovan, an opposition lawmaker banned from entering the United States, said Monday that he is processing a form at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh to clear his name from the black list.

“A form was given to me today, but I will return tomorrow,” said Pen Sovann, who was briefly Prime Minister of Cambodia for four months in 1981, following the collapse of the Khmer Rouge regime. He is now a member of the National Assembly for  the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). He met Monday morning with U.S. officials at U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh.

Sovann, aged 78, said the sanction by the U.S. government on him took place after he visited to the U.S. in 2001, when he was a senior leader in Human Rights Party. He was accompanied by a translator who failed to return to Cambodia.

 “I was required to clear my name after that translator returned back to Cambodia,” he said, noting that the translator returned to Cambodia two months ago.

U.S. officials in Phnom Penh declined to provide details.

“We are unable to provide details of individual visa cases as the records are confidential under U.S. law,” Jay Raman, U.S. Embassy spokesman, said by email.

News of the sanction on Sovann and a visa bar on Thach Setha, a senator from Sam Rainsy Party, were posted  Monday on Facebook by Phay Siphan, a spokesman of Cambodian government.

“Two senior officials of the Cambodia National Rescue Party have been put into black list by the Department of State and banned from entering U.S. territory although they hold diplomatic passports,” Phay Siphan wrote on his social network page. He said the U.S. Government said the two men committed cross border human trafficking.

Called for comment, Thach Setha said he had not been notified and did not see it as a big issue.

“If I were a terrorist or a human trafficker, I would be the first person to be arrested in Cambodia,” he told the Khmer Times.

Cambodia ranks high in a human trafficking report released by the U.S. Government last  year.

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