PM expresses dismay over continued US visa sanctions

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Prime Minister Hun Sen greets US ambassador to Cambodia W Patrick Murphy on May 5. SPM

Prime Minister Hun Sen has expressed dismay at the US for continued visa sanctions against Cambodian foreign ministry officials for allegedly “denying or unreasonably delaying” exercising of the deportation agreement between the two countries, despite Cambodia having actively implemented the agreement by accepting hundreds of deportees.

Speaking to members of the Cambodian diaspora in Washington on May 12 ahead of the ASEAN-US Special Summit, Hun Sen said that Cambodia has been implementing the agreement – in which citizens who commit crimes in either foreign country would be deported after serving their sentences – but had merely requested several amendments on “humanitarian” grounds. They were made after the premier observed the consequences of deportation on some Cambodian deportees, such as suicide, he said.

“Another injustice is that if a husband commits a crime and is jailed, his subsequent deportation will affect not only himself, but his spouse and children in the country,” Hun Sen said.

“Seeing this, we had requested that the US amend the agreement based on humanitarian factors. But I did not expect that the US administration would see the whole thing differently from us, even regarding us as an ‘uncooperative country’ and placing sanctions on us and our senior diplomatic officials.

“But at the same time, we are actually implementing that [original] agreement now. We simply put in a request for some amendments. But they called us ‘uncooperative’despite the Kingdom agreeing to accept hundreds more Cambodian deportees,” he said.

“At this hour, the US should resume the issuing of visas because Cambodia has been enforcing the existing agreement,” Hun Sen said, adding that the sanctions were still a “big obstacle” for the Cambodian foreign ministry.

Officials from Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation had recently expressed their frustration with the continued rejections of their visa applications by the US consular office.

US embassy spokesman Chad Roedemeier said in late March that the visa rejections were due to what the US Department of Homeland Security alleges as Cambodia denying or unreasonably delaying accepting its citizens who are ordered removed.

“This policy started in 2017, and there have been no changes. Since 2017, we [have] stopped giving tourist visas to Ministry of Foreign Affairs employees with the rank of Director General and above,” Roedemeier said.