Teens Denied US Entry Visas, Miss Millennium Conference

Two teens selected to participate in an international youth conference in Hawaii have been denied entry visas by the US and were forced to skip the event, according to the director of a local youth-related NGO.

The pair, Khieu Samphas and Van Dara, had expected to attend the Millennium Young People’s Con­gress that began last week and ends Friday, said Yong Kim Eng, president of the Khmer Youth Association, which deals with youth and human rights.

But after trips first to the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, and then US Embassies in Bangkok and Singapore, the pair were told they would not be granted a temporary visa to the US. “We are upset because we’ve paid a lot of money to go to Bang­kok and Singapore but in the end [we got] nothing,” Yong Kim Eng said.

US Embassy officials here said they could not comment on this specific case, saying the denial was given outside of Cambodia.

Since factional fighting in 1997, the US Embassy in Phnom Penh stopped issuing most non-immigration visas—student, business or tourist. Only im­mi­grant visas —those for people moving permanently to the US—and diplomatic or other gov­ern­ment-sponsored visas are issued here.

People traveling outside Cam­bodia to a regional center like the embassies in Thailand or Malay­sia can apply for temporary visas but must undergo a strict review process, embassy officials said.

US immigration law requires consular officials responsible for granting temporary visas like those sought by Khieu Samphas and Van Dara to assume the applicants intend to permanently immigrate to the US rather than stay only temporarily.

Applicants, embassy officials said, must provide no doubt they intend to return to their home countries. Yong Kim Eng said the two teens’ visa requests were turned down be­­cause they did not have enough proof they would return to Cambodia.

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