US suspends visas for Cambodian foreign ministry officials

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — The U.S. Embassy in Cambodia on Wednesday stopped issuing visas to senior Cambodian foreign ministry officials and their families, an action initiated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It said the suspension was implemented under U.S. immigration law in response to Cambodia's refusal to accept back its nationals whom the U.S. wants to repatriate.

U.S. law calls for deporting convicted felons of foreign nationality — including those with U.S. permanent resident status — after they have served their prison sentences. Cambodia under a 2002 agreement with the United States has accepted the repatriation of about 500 such returnees. An estimated 1,000 more have yet to be sent back.

Cambodia recently has not accepted such people, and Prime Minister Hun Sen said earlier this year he wished to amend the agreement because it broke up Cambodian-American families.

The United States on Wednesday took similar actions toward Eritrea, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Sierra Leone's government said the same day it would accept the 27 of its citizens being deported.

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