Cambodian leader Hun Sen called on the United States Thursday to stop forcibly deporting convicts with Cambodian heritage to the Southeast Asian nation, saying they should revise a policy that splits up families.
More than 500 felons have been sent to Cambodia through a repatriation deal, though many were raised in the US and arrive in the country having never visited and unable to speak the language.
"America is very smart...they keep only good people while they deport prisoners out of their country back to us," said Hun Sen, the strongman premier who has ruled Cambodia for more than three decades.
"I hope the father of human rights which is America...will accept the proposal to amend the agreement to offer convicted Cambodians a chance to stay in the US with their families," he added.
The prime minister's comments come after Cambodia's foreign ministry said earlier this week it wanted to renegotiate the 15-year-old agreement allowing both nations to deport criminals with ties to the other country.
The foreign ministry spokesman said the deal had been "criticised by both Cambodians here and Cambodian communities in the US" as a form of "double punishment" for those who are deported against their will.
A spokesman for the US Embassy in Phnom Penh told AFP they had been informed of Cambodia's desire to amend the agreement.
Hun Sen routinely hurls insults at the United States and jumps on any opportunity to point out hypocrisy in American foreign policy.
Washington secretly bombed Cambodia during the Indochina wars but went on to be a major donor as the country emerged from the ashes of the Khmer Rouge genocide, pouring billions in aid into the country.
It also took in tens of thousands of Cambodian refugees.
Yet relations between the two nations have grown increasingly frosty in recent years, a period that has seen Cambodia grow closer to regional superpower Beijing.
China has lavished the poverty-stricken country with billions of dollars in grants and low-interest loans over the past few decades.
Unlike aid from the US, Beijing's support comes without pressure to address rights abuses or strengthen the country's fragile democracy.