U.S. Official Meets Thais Who Demand Money for U.S. War Remains
ARANYAPRATHET, Thailand (AP) _ A U.S. Embassy official met here today with Cambodian guerrillas and Thais who are demanding money for what they claim to be the remains of two Americans killed in 1972 during the Vietnam War.
The guerrillas, who are fighting Vietnamese troops in Cambodia, also are demanding money for help in rescuing two Americans they say they spotted in the northeastern Cambodian province of Ratanakhiri.
U.S. Embassy official Garnett Bell said he met with Gong La Pock, a Cambodian who claimed he videotaped, fingerprinted and photographed the two living Americans in April. But Bell said the man presented no evidence at today’s meeting in this Thai border town.
Bell is a Bangkok-based officer of the U.S. Joint Casualty Resolution Center, the military organization entrusted with resolving the fates of 2,430 Americans listed as missing in the Vietnam War. The war spilled over into Cambodia and Laos, and about 90 Americans are reported missing in Cambodia.
The guerrillas said they found the bones and identification tags of navyman John Ogelsey and journalist Bernard Hendrick during a military operation inside Cambodia.
The United States does not buy remains and discourages private forays to search for them. How much money the guerrillas were demanding for what they said were remains was not clear, but it was reported to be a large sum.
Hundreds of reports have surfaced of supposed sightings of Americans in postwar Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, but none has been confirmed.
Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia maintain there are no Americans in their countries.
Bell said that in an effort to retrieve the two sets of purported remains, he met with two Thais - a former army sergeant and a female black market dealer. The two were acting as go-betweens for guerrillas of the Khmer (Cambodian) People’s National Liberation Front, he said. He said he also went to the refugee holding center of Khao-I-Dang near Aranyaprathet to discuss the matter with a Liberation Front leader.
Bell said he did not succeed in getting any remains.
The guerrillas said the Americans, Ogelsey and Hendrick, were killed in 1972 by Khmer Rouge communists then battling the Phnom Penh government.
The Liberation Front and the Khmer Rouge now are joined with forces of former Cambodian ruler Prince Norodom Sihanouk in fighting Vietnamese forces who invaded Cambodia nearly eight years ago.
U.S. Embassy officials in Bangkok said neither name appears on the official list of missing Americans but that some Americans may have died in Indochina without their fates being officially recorded.