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PM responds to US NGO over MIA suspension

Ven Rathavong / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
The remains of a US soldier are repatriated. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Prime Minister Hun Sen has told the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia that Cambodia will continue its cooperation on finding American soldiers when United States resolves the visa sanctions it imposed on Cambodia.

According to a letter the prime minister sent to Ann Mills-Griggiths, the chairman of the board and CEO of National League of POW/MIA Families on Thursday, Mr Hun Sen said Cambodia has been consistently cited as the most cooperative of all countries based on humanitarian principles.

“This also holds true in terms of cooperation on the repatriation programme; however Cambodia has been unjustly sanctioned for the simple fact that we requested for more consideration from the US on humanitarian and compassionate aspects,” he said.

Mr Hun Sen confirmed that the suspension and cooperation on MIA issues is temporary and added that Cambodia will resume its cooperation as soon as Cambodia receives credible and mutual assurances about lifting the ban on visas.

The US introduced a visa ban on Foreign Ministry officials after a row over the repatriation of Cambodians with criminal records, as well as the US embassy in Cambodia issuing a travel warning for US citizens visiting the country.

In retaliation against the US visa sanctions, Mr Hun Sen announced on September 15 that Cambodia would suspend its programme to recover the remains of US service personnel missing since the Vietnam War.

In the letter from Ms Mills-Griggiths, dated September 25, she asked for continued cooperation on MIAs in Cambodia.

She said Cambodia was the most cooperative of all countries in this effort based on humanitarian issues.

“I am aware of the complex and difficult bilateral issues which prompted your decision, but I can assure you they have nothing to do with the inaccurate perception that the US is attempting to change your government,” she said.

“Thus it would be personally disappointing if this disconnect is permitted to proceed, and very hurtful for the families whose love ones are yet to be located and recovered in your country,” she said, adding that she asked the government to continue its cooperation on MIAs.

“In the interim, we have avoided discussion of this matter with family members and countless American supporters,” she said.

Mr Hun Sen asked for assistance from Ms Mills-Griggiths in generating public understanding on the importance of bilateral cooperation.

“Cambodia always looks forward to working with you to bring this humanitarian mission back on track, thus contributing to improving the bilateral ties between Cambodia and the US,” he said.

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