PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia's prime minister says he has agreed to the resumption of U.S. military-led missions to search for the remains of Americans missing in action during the Vietnam War, following an appeal from two U.S. state lawmakers.
The long-running program was suspended a year ago after the U.S. government stopped issuing visas to senior Cambodian Foreign Ministry officials and their families. The tit-for-tat move came amid sharply deteriorating relations between the two countries.
In a letter released on Saturday addressed to Washington state Sen. Doug Ericksen and Washington state Rep. Vincent Buys, both Republicans, Prime Minister Hun Sen said he appreciated their understanding of "Cambodia's ongoing socio-economic and democratic progress," and was agreeing to remove the block "in the same compassionate spirit."
He added that he was making the move even though the visa ban remains in place.
Hun Sen and his inner circle have come under concerted pressure from Western countries for a relentless crackdown on all opposition in the run-up to this past July's general election, a poll that was widely derided as a sham. Earlier this month, the European Union said it was starting the process of removing trade preferences from Cambodia, a move that, if implemented, could badly hit the country's key garment industry.
American forces became involved in Cambodia as a consequence of the war in neighboring Vietnam. There was little involvement of ground troops, but U.S. planes maintained a long-running bombing campaign against communist fighters.
The U.S. government lists 48 Americans as still unaccounted for in Cambodia.