Six Cambodian ex-convicts deported from the US arrived in Cambodia Saturday afternoon and are being held by the police until their families are found, officials said Sunday.
The six are the first group of Cambodians to be repatriated under an agreement signed between the two countries in March. The agreement, which allows the US to return Cambodian ex-convicts after their prison sentences are completed if they do not have US citizenship, could potentially affect 1,431 Cambodians in the US.
Although the ex-convicts completed their prison terms in the US, they are currently being held by Cambodian police, a Ministry of Interior official said Sunday.
“The [six ex-convicts] are under the protection of the police,” said Meach Sophana, director of immigration for the Ministry of Interior. He would not disclose where the six are being held, saying they deserve privacy.
“They made a request to us not to allow newspapers to print information about them,” Meach Sophana said. “If a story appears about them, where will they go? It would make them a double victim, and they will feel embarrassed and be discriminated [against].”
Some of the ex-felons coming to Cambodia lived in the US for 20 or 30 years but never filed the paperwork to become US citizens. All have been convicted in the US of “aggravated felonies,” such as robbery. Most non-US citizens are deported to their homelands after serving time for a conviction.
While the US and Cambodia do not have an extradition treaty, in March the two countries signed an agreement to repatriate the Cambodians “on a case-by-case basis without preconditions,” according to a copy of the agreement.
An official from the US embassy said on Sunday that the Cambodian government was paid a “nominal” amount for administrative costs and processing of the deportees. The ex-felons will receive no money from the US, the official said.
The official said the deportees are being “put up” by the Cambodian government until family members are found.
Mao Chan was one of the ex-felons who arrived in Cambodia from the US on Saturday, the US newspaper the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. Convicted of several felony robberies, Mao Chan said last week that he was afraid to come to Cambodia.
“[Cambodian officials] might try to kill me or throw me in jail when I get there,” Mao Chan was reported as saying while he was still in the US.
He could not be reached for comment upon his arrival in Cambodia.