PHNOM PENH, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia said on Thursday that the U.S. visa restrictions on Cambodian foreign ministry high ranking officials are "unreasonable" and against the spirit of good cooperation between the two countries.
The United States on Wednesday stopped issuing some types of visa to Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs employees, with the rank of Director General and above, and their families, with limited exceptions.
The United States said the restrictions came after Cambodia refused to accept or unreasonably delayed the return of its nationals, whom the United States seeks to expel.
"Visa restrictions are the sovereign rights of the United States government. However, the linking of these restrictions to the repatriation of Cambodian nationals is unreasonable and contradictory to the spirit of good cooperation between Cambodia and the United States over the years in this particular matter," the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
"The reason for discontinuing the granting of visas made us even more surprised since Cambodia did not halt its cooperation nor deny/unreasonably delay accepting its nationals subject to be deported by the United States," said the statement.
"Cambodia is still prepared to accept its nationals who will be deported by the U.S. and will try by all means to ensure that those Cambodians will be successfully reintegrated into society and begin their new lives with the fullest decency and dignity," it added.
In April, Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen said Cambodia did not cancel a deportation agreement with the United States, which was signed 15 years ago, but requested the United States to amend the agreement to allow convicted Cambodians to continue living in the country after they had served their prison sentence.
Under the effective agreement, Cambodians, who are permanent residents of the United States, will be deported to Cambodia if they are convicted of felony.
Hun Sen said it is an immoral act to deport those convicted Cambodians, separating them from their family members for the whole life.
Some 550 convicted criminals with Cambodian heritage have been deported from the United States since 2002, many of them cannot even speak Cambodian language.