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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

US deportations of Cambodian Americans challenged by exile community

During the violence of the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s tens of thousands of Cambodians fled to nearby Thailand. Some went on to the Philippines and then to the US, where families resettled and tried to start over.

But about a decade ago, the US stepped up its deportation of Cambodians who had been convicted of “aggravated felonies” forcing many to leave the US, the only home they’ve known. Many of these exiled Americans now reside inside Cambodia. A group of them have made a short film called My Asian Americana that they’re using to advocate for changes in the US policy.

One of those involved is Kosal Khiev.

“If the world is black and white, then let me bring the color...”

That’s a clip from one of his poems, “Why I Write.” Khiev was born in a refugee camp in Thailand before moving to the US with his family. At the age of 17 he was charged with attempted murder in connection with a gang fight. He served 14 years of a 16-year sentence before being released in 2011, when he was deported to Cambodia. He joins us now from Phnom Penh.

To see a video of Khiev’s "Why I Write":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCKvWSHl_hw

To see Studio Revolt’s "My Asian Americana," which features Khiev and other American exiles in Cambodia:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/aapi/whats-your-story

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