One of the many Cambodian returnees deported from the States is poet/spoken word artist Kosal Khiev.

Returnees often find themselves discriminated against by USA citizens, expatriates, and Cambodian nationals. Many don’t have a working knowledge of Khmer, finding themselves trapped between two cultures – and unemployable. I don’t think deportation is a particular gift to Cambodia. Nor is it a workable solution for crime prevention/reduction. I believe the USA’s process for selecting and deporting Cambodians is quite hit-and miss, warranting review and revision.

Kosal has viewed his deportation as a second chance. He’s been a featured speaker at TEDxPhnomPenh and numerous local events.

Earlier this year he made an appearance highlighting returnee issues in a video submitted to The White House’s ‘My Asian Americana’ competition.

The film won the popular vote but not the prize, and the creators held a sort of Salon des Refusés in response.

Invited to represent Cambodia in London’s ‘Poetry Parnassus‘, he left for the UK this last weekend after a highly-promoted gig at Pontoon Club.

At the airport, the same country that had invited Kosal stopped him and detained him. (Stages of this were documented by filmmaker Masahiro Sugano.) Kosal ended up being held at Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre – one of the very facilities he was originally scheduled to perform at.

Artistic partners Studio Revolt, Kosal’s friends, and road manager Linda Kwon pulled out all the stops to a) find out what was going on and b) keep the issue in the public eye.
Colnbrook was inundated with phone calls and queries.

News stories followed in today’s Cambodia Daily and Phnom Penh Post.

A day later, he is out, though his passport has not yet been returned. (‘Thank you’ video below).

It’s a pretty prestigious gig to perform at a cultural offshoot of the Olympics.
I’m guessing Kosal had his act buttoned down, this is not an opportunity he’d want to mess up.

What I’m wondering: A: Did the UK organizers have their act together in clearing his entry?
Or B: (Less likely) did Kosal knowingly or unwittingly break the law entering the country?

One thing’s for sure: he’ll get a story out of it. I’ll leave it to readers to make up their own minds.

More on Returnees:

Kosal Khiev:

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