Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - PM: Programme to recover Vietnam War missing back on



PM: Programme to recover Vietnam War missing back on

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
US soldiers carry a flag-draped coffin containing the remains of a US soldier in 2008. Photo supplied

PM: Programme to recover Vietnam War missing back on

Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced the resumption of the MIA programme to recover the remains of American service personnel missing after action on Cambodian soil during the Vietnam War.

The programme was suspended for more than a year after the US government imposed visa restrictions on Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and their families.

A spokesman for the ruling party said on Sunday that Cambodia’s resumption of the POW/MIA programme was a “humanitarian act” which highlighted the Kingdom’s respect for human rights.

However, the US embassy in Phnom Penh said on Sunday that it had yet to receive official word confirming the move.

In announcing the suspension of the MIA search programme on September 15 last year, the prime minister said around half of some 80 US soldiers who had died in Cambodia during the Vietnam War remained missing.

On September 13 last year, the US embassy announced a ban on business and tourist visas for Cambodian Foreign Ministry officials and their families in response to the Kingdom’s refusal to accept what it deemed the “inhumane” deportation of its citizens convicted of felonies in the US.

Separately, the US, in December last year, began restricting visas for senior Cambodian government officials it accused of “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom after the former opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved by the Supreme Court in November the same year.

According to a letter sent to US Republican Senator Doug Ericksen and Republican Representative Vincent Buys, and copied to Ann Mills-Griffiths, chairperson and CEO of the National League of POW/MIA Families, dated Friday and released publicly on Saturday, Hun Sen said his government “agreed with the reactivation” of the POW/MIA programme.

“The POW/MIA programme had been running successfully for more than 30 years before being suspended after Cambodia was unjustly sanctioned for the simple fact that we requested more consideration from the US on similar humanitarian grounds in the Cambodian repatriation programme,” Hun Sen continues.

“As we have discussed before and at your personal request as well as that made by other US organisations, my Government, in the same compassionate spirit, agreed to resume this important POW/MIA field mission, regardless of US visa restriction in place.”

Ericksen and Buys went to New York last month to meet with the prime minister, who was attending the United Nations General Assembly.

They also wrote to Hun Sen on October 2, asking for the search programme to be allowed to continue, according to a Seattle Times report.

“Families of those Americans who are missing in action have spent nearly 50 years seeking answers about their loved ones,” Ericksen said, the Times reported.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan on Sunday questioned which of the two nations “respects human rights more?” in comments describing the decision as a “humanitarian act [that reflects a] respect for human rights”.

“Based on the request from a US senator in Washington state, the Cambodian government agreed to resume the POW/MIA programme on humanitarian grounds, [which shows] deep empathy with the victims’ families,” he said.

“The gesture of the Cambodian government on the reactivation of the POW/MIA programme shows which [nation] is more humanitarian and respects human rights more.”

When contacted by The Post, Emily Zeeberg, a spokesperson at the US Embassy in Phnom Penh, on Sunday said that the embassy had not yet received an official communication on the matter.

“We have seen media reports noting a decision by the Royal Government of Cambodia to resume humanitarian cooperation on POW/MIA issues but have not yet received an official communication to that effect,” she said via email.

MOST VIEWED

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in

  • PM urges caution as Polish man tests positive for Covid

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday reported that a 47-year-old Polish man tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in Cambodia on Monday. There are a total of six Covid-19 patients currently in the country, all of whom are being treated at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from

  • Floods prompt evacuations in Kampong Speu

    Rain-induced floods and water flowing from Kampong Speu province have submerged the houses of 1,527 families living close to the Prek Thnot River in Spean Thma, Tien, Kong Noy and Roluos communes in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, according to data from local authorities. Spean Thma