The United States’ National League of POW/MIA Families has issued a letter expressing gratitude to Prime Minister Hun Sen for moving forward with efforts to recover the remains of missing US servicemen from the Vietnam War.
In a letter sent on July 17, Ann Mills-Griffiths, chairwoman of the board and CEO of the National League of POW/MIA Families, said Mr Hun Sen appointed Cambodian officials to lead the Kingdom’s POW/MIA Committee.
“We are deeply grateful that you long ago named highly respected senior Cambodian officials to lead Cambodia’s POW/MIA Committee and that recent changes within your government did not impact the position of now retired General Pol Saroeun as chairman,” Ms Mills-Griffiths said. “We have worked successively and productively with him.”
In the letter, Ms Mills-Griffiths also expressed gratitude to Chum Sounry, Cambodian Ambassador to the United States, for joining a meeting in Arlington, Virginia.
“Ambassador Sounry delivered knowledgeable remarks that exemplified the reality of our long-standing cooperation, namely that Cambodia has long been recognised as the gold standard for cooperation and partnership on the POW/MIA accounting mission,” Ms Mills-Griffiths said.
Emily Zeeberg, spokeswoman for the US embassy in Phnom Penh, declined to comment.
Ket Sophann, spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, could not be reached for comment
In September 2017, the US introduced visa bans on Foreign Ministry officials after a row over the repatriation of Cambodians with criminal records. In retaliation, Cambodia suspended the POW/MIA programme.
In November 2018, a meeting between Gen Saroeun and Rear Admiral Jon C. Kreitz, deputy director of the Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency, was held after Cambodia agreed to resume the programme.
Both sides discussed recovering known remains and seeking more information about possible locations in the provinces.
Gen Saroeun said in a Facebook post at the time that resuming the programme was based on the spirit of compassion, mutual respect, and the desire to promote and deepen the bilateral relationship in sectors of common interest.
According to the Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency, 90 US military personnel went missing in Cambodia at the end of the Vietnam War.
So far, 42 have been identified and repatriated.