Visa ban targets MoFA
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.