PHNOM PENH, The US is deporting 51 Cambodians who are expected to arrive in the country on Thursday, the single largest group of deportees in the history of the contentious 15-year repatriation program.

The group is expected to include deportees with chronic mental health and physical conditions, said 1Love Cambodia, a support group for the returnees. Most deportees also have criminal records.

"We've been informed that contrary to US agreements, this group includes people with chronic mental and physical conditions that will require our community's unwavering support," the group said in a statement on its Facebook page. "We are hurt and enraged to say the least."

The group said it was seeking donations for the arrivals, including toiletries and food.

As many as 200 Cambodians are expected to be deported from the US this year, including many who grew up in the United States, have no ties to Cambodia and do not speak Khmer. In comparison, the Returnee Integration Support Center has received some 550 returnees over the past 15 years.

The deportation program created a diplomatic rift between the US and Cambodia last year after Cambodia stopped issuing travel documents to most of the deportees. In February, US Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Carl Risch said visa sanctions on top Cambodian foreign affairs officials could be lifted in the near future if the Cambodian government follows through on promises to again accept returnees.

Kim Vanny, a check-in official at Pochentong Airport, confirmed that the airport is preparing for the arrivals, but noted that the figures can sometimes change.

"Sometime the seniors change their mind and agree to not send," Vanny said. "So to be clear, on the day, they send their names to the airport. [Then] we will know definitely sure that they are coming."

The number could go down due to the recent pardons of two scheduled deportees by California Governor Jerry Brown.

Source: NAM News Network