Visa ban tar­gets MoFA

The Phnom Penh Post - - NA­TIONAL -

the US yes­ter­day dis­con­tin­ued B1 and B2 visas, which are for tem­po­rary vis­its for busi­ness or plea­sure, for “Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs em­ploy­ees, with the rank of Di­rec­tor Gen­eral and above, and their fam­i­lies, with lim­ited ex­cep­tions”.

The B visa also ap­plies to Cam­bo­di­ans seek­ing med­i­cal treat­ment in the US, and the ban af­fects the min­is­ter, sec­re­taries and un­der­sec­re­taries of state, and cab­i­net ad­vis­ers.

Last Oc­to­ber, the King­dom tem­po­rar­ily stopped is­su­ing travel doc­u­ments to re­ceive Cam­bo­dian na­tion­als whom the US wanted to de­port.

Since 2002, 566 Cam­bo­di­ans re­sid­ing in the US have been de­ported due to felony con­vic­tions un­der a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing that crit­ics say tears fam­i­lies apart. Many de­por­tees were born in Thai refugee camps after their par­ents fled the Kh­mer Rouge; some can­not speak Kh­mer and have no fam­ily left in Cam­bo­dia.

Bros­na­han said that un­der US law, “when a coun­try de­nies or un­rea­son­ably de­lays ac­cept­ing one of its na­tion­als”, the State Depart­ment is em­pow­ered to “dis­con­tinue is­suance of any or all visas”. “Cam­bo­dia has re­peat­edly failed to is­sue travel doc­u­ments for in­di­vid­u­als un­der fi­nal or­der of re­moval. We be­lieve that this step is there- fore re­quired at this time with the hope Cam­bo­dia will co­op­er­ate on re­movals,” he said.

He added that the visa re­stric­tions will be lifted once the State Depart­ment is no­ti­fied that Cam­bo­dia will ac­cept the re­turn of its na­tion­als.

The For­eign Min­istry said in a state­ment that it “re­grets” the move, and “anticipates” the US will “re­con­sider” to “pro­mote friendly re­la­tions”.

The sus­pen­sion, they said, was to ad­dress hu­man­i­tar­ian con­cerns and did not mean the MoU would be ter­mi­nated.

Bill Herod, founder of the Re­turnee In­te­gra­tion Sup­port Cen­tre (RISC), said he hoped the govern­ment wouldn’t budge un­til a more hu­mane so­lu­tion had been reached.

“If an in­di­vid­ual was born in a Thai camp, com­mit­ted a mi­nor, non-vi­o­lent crime as a teenager, and has been crime-free for years and is now em­ployed and rais­ing a fam­ily, the two gov­ern­ments could agree that the com­pas­sion­ate and hu­man­i­tar­ian aspects of such a case ar­gue against de­por­ta­tion,” he said.

But Fu­ture Fo­rum founder Ou Vi­rak was not so op­ti­mistic, say­ing the re­stric­tions would frustrate of­fi­cials. “I think Cam­bo­dia will cave,” he said. “This is re­ally sad, though,” he added, say­ing the US had im­posed sanc­tions for “the wrong rea­sons”, un­der­min­ing their cred­i­bil­ity on hu­man rights and democ­racy.

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