Cambodia-US relations are currently being strained by a 15-year-old agreement under which the United States was allowed to send back to this country some 1,400 Cambodian immigrants who were convicted of crimes in the US – an agreement the Cambodian government believes is inhumane and should be renegotiated. To find out more about the planned repatriation, I interviewed Mr Bucky “John” Botulism, the First and a Half Secretary of the US embassy.
Q: Mr Botulism, why does the US want to return these 1,400 immigrants to Cambodia?
A: It’s quite simple. These people are criminals, law breakers. The US is a law-abiding society which has no room for such people.
Q: But crimes are committed in every country. Is the US really more opposed to crime than other societies?
A: Indeed we are. For example, we have a greater percentage of our population in prison than any other country in the world; clearly, that indicates a commitment to stamping out crime. We are also very careful not to allow criminal foreigners to enter our country.
Q: Yes, you carry out quite strict investigations of a person’s background before giving them an immigrant visa, don’t you?
A: Of course.
Q: So you’re confident that none of those 1,400 immigrants had a criminal background here in Cambodia?
A: Well, we’re not perfect – although we’re working on it, ha ha – so it’s possible that one or two might have fooled our investigators. But it’s not likely. In fact, most of them were small children when they came.
Q: So these people weren’t criminals when they lived in Cambodia. They became criminals in the US. And now that they’re criminals, you want to send them to Cambodia?
A: Of course. Why would we want to have Cambodian criminals living in the US?
Q: Don’t you think that’s a bit unfair?
A: It certainly is. We, in complete good faith, give immigrant visas to these certified law-abiding people. We welcome them into our law-abiding, crime-hating society. And how do they repay our generosity? By becoming criminals! Not only that, but some of them are hardly more than kids when they land in jail!
Q: But is it possible that something they experienced in the US might have caused them to break the law?
A: Hey, I already told you: We hate crime so much that our police are allowed to shoot people dead just on suspicion. So why would we encourage anyone to become a criminal? Don’t be ridiculous!
Q: What I don’t understand is why these people who weren’t criminals before they emigrated to the US and became criminals in the US.
A: Well look, there was obviously something wrong with them to start with, wasn’t there? I mean, if they were qualified to be good Americans, why were they born in Cambodia? Cambodians themselves will tell you: it must have been because they did something wrong in a previous life.
Q: Is there any plan to have visa checks include applicants’ behaviour in previous existences?
A: Hey, you know, that’s not a bad idea … But probably the crypto-terrorists on the Supreme Court would prohibit it.