Six Cambodians deported from the US last week for felony convictions and now living in Phnom Penh are in “good spirits” and soon will be relocated to live with relatives throughout the country, officials and observers said Wednesday.
Firsthand reports of the deportees’ condition came as well from a group of self-described “concerned individuals,” who were allowed to meet with the deportees on Tuesday.
The group, mainly composed of NGO workers based in Phnom Penh, said the deportees had no complaints about their stay so far in Cambodia, according to a statement issued by Jay Stansell, assistant federal public defender in Seattle in the US state of Washington.
Stansell is the lawyer for deportee Mao Chan. Tuesday’s meeting was arranged by the Cambodian Department of Immigration, which has cared for the deportees since their arrival Saturday. The group is the first of an expected 1,400 Cambodians to be deported from the US for felony convictions.
Meach Sophanna, director for immigration for the Ministry of Interior, said Wednesday that the government is preparing to send the six deportees to relatives.
He would not say when they will be sent or where they are being held. Cambodian communities in the US, meanwhile, continue to protest the deportations, alleging that they are tearing apart families and sending longtime residents of the US to uncertain futures in Cambodia.
A demonstration in Seattle on Friday drew 100 people to protest the forced deportation of Mao Chan, who arrived in Phnom Penh on Saturday.
The marchers waved banners saying, “Stop sending refugees back to torture,” and “We are American, do not send American to the death,” according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper. A protest has also been planned for Saturday in Washington.
An official at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh said Wednesday that no more deportations are planned for now. The official added that “all six [current deportees] speak Khmer and they are pretty well fixed for money.”
(Reporting by Matt McKinney, David Kihara and Phann Ana)