By Stefanie Donahue
After drawing sharp criticism from the public for their multiple trips abroad to Cambodia, senator Doug Ericksen (R) and representative Vincent Buys (R) say they played a role in Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s decision to resume a search program for Americans missing in action during
the Vietnam War.
In a letter to Sen sent on October 2, the 42nd legislative district lawmakers acknowledged the “complicated” relationship between the U.S. and Cambodia and said there was an “opportunity to improve economic, cultural and political relations.”
It continued, “In order to send a clear message that Cambodia desired to improve relations with the U.S., we humbly request that the Kingdom of Cambodia re-activate the program […] and continue the humanitarian work of locating and returning the remains of American soldiers…”
The search program was suspended in 2017 after the U.S. government stopped issuing visas to Cambodian Foreign Ministry officials. The restriction still remains in place.
In a letter to Ericksen and Buys, Sen wrote, “It has always been our desire to seek and elevate the bilateral relations and to deepen across-the-board cooperation with the U.S.” He added that the Cambodian government would resume the search program, despite the visa restrictions.
Public Disclosure Commission reports filed in April and June show that Ericksen and Buys traveled to Cambodia for a “trade mission” and “friendship trip.” During that time, they met with Sen and other senior officials to discuss trade and observe the Cambodian election.
Sen, his administration and the recent election have drawn criticism from western governments.