11 More US Deportees Arrive

Eleven US-deported Cambo­dians arrived last month, bringing the total number of deportees to 77, according to a report from the Re­turnee Assistance Project, an NGO that helps returning Cam­bo­di­ans adjust to their new surroundings.

Meanwhile, RAP has received the $108,000 in funding promised in September by the US government, said Bill Herod, project coordinator. The money ar­rived at the end of October, he said.

About 10 returnees live in a two-story, RAP-operated house on the southern edge of Phnom Penh, Herod said.

The deportees continue to have access to counseling and Khmer language lessons. Herod said about half of the 50 men he works with in Phnom Penh are having trouble settling into life in Cambodia.

“These guys by definition are not here because they have been playing by the rules,” Herod said.

“Some lack a lot of personal discipline and have trouble getting settled because they go back to their old habits.”

People who had strong ties to gangs before they left tend to have more problems, Herod said. And those who are older than 30 seem to have an easier time ad­justing because they are more ma­ture, he added.

Sila Yok, 33, lived in the US state of Massachusetts until he was deported in May.

He has not found a job, al­though he said he would do just about any kind of work.

All of Sila Yok’s family still live in the US, aside from one brother, who lived in Cambodia until he died several months ago.

“It’s been kind of lonely,” Sila Yok said. “I don’t like it. I want to go back home.”

Eight groups of between six and 11 deportees have arrived since June 2002. About one-third are living with family in the provinces, while the rest live in the capital.

In March 2002, the US and Cam­­bodian governments signed an agreement allowing the US to deport Cambodians convicted of aggravated felonies after they complete their sentences. An estimated 1,400 Cam­bodians have been designated for criminal deportation from the US.


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