PHNOM PENH —
Cambodia has said it will continue to accept deportees from the United States despite reports it would block criminals from being sent to Phnom Penh, which prompted Washington to impose visa restrictions on senior foreign ministry officials.
In a speech on Thursday, Prak Sokhon, foreign affairs minister, confirmed that deportees would still be accepted by Cambodia in accordance with a 2002 agreement between the two parties.
“We will continue ... until we seek a proper solution for those deportees. We will wait for a better situation to discuss and negotiate about the matter since it is about humanity and mercy,” he said.
On Thursday, the foreign ministry issued a statement calling the new visa restrictions “irrational”.
Prime Minister Hun Sen’s son, Hun Manet, posted on Facebook after the U.S. announced the visa restrictions, which he called “punitive”, that he had been approached by Cambodian-Americans who had asked that Cambodia deny entry to deportees, which would force the U.S. not to carry out the deportations.
David Josar, U.S. Embassy spokesman, declined to comment on the developments.
Ear Sophal, an associate professor at the Occidental College in Los Angeles, said the visa restrictions were a valid response to Cambodia and would “help to improve the human rights situation and democracy in Cambodia.”
“It can get worse if things don't improve. You can always blame President Trump for everything that goes wrong. Truth is, if things improved democratically in Cambodia, it would be easy to remove Cambodia from among the countries sanctioned.”
More than 550 Cambodians have been deported since the signing of the agreement between the two countries in 2002.