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Friday, February 04, 2011

Teams to Search Cambodia for Vietnam War MIAs

Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs

Courtesy Story

From a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command News Release

WASHINGTON - Two archeological teams from the U.S. Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command are scheduled to arrive in Cambodia soon to search for Americans unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, and physicians and nurses from military commands in Hawaii will accompany them to participate in a health engagement mission.

As part of the recovery portion of this dual-purpose deployment, more than 40 recovery team members will excavate a burial site and an underwater aircraft crash site in search of four missing Americans in Cambodia's Kampong Cham and Kracheh provinces.

The deployment, expected to last about 40 days, marks the command's 44th joint field activity in Cambodia, officials said.

Recovery teams search for human remains, life-support items and other material evidence that may further the identification of Americans missing from past conflicts.

In addition to recovery efforts, U.S. and Cambodian personnel will participate in a medical engagement outreach event, treating 4,000 to 8,000 people in rural and highly underserved communities, officials said. The specialized 12-member team of experts in various medical specialties will provide basic health assistance, laboratory services and optometry examinations.

The U.S. medical team members are from Tripler Army Medical Center, the 18th Medical Command and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. U.S. and Cambodian physicians will reinforce medical capabilities by participating in an information exchange, benefitting both countries educationally and socio-culturally, officials added.

"[Tripler] is sending physician residents from OB/GYN and family medicine to conduct expert exchanges with local physicians, and will be invited to work alongside the Khmer physicians and treat their patients," said Army Capt. Drew Webb, a Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command physician assistant.

This will be the first time a Tripler resident program has deployed to a foreign country on a humanitarian outreach mission, Webb added.
"The big takeaway for all of this is that the [Tripler] residents will get training and experience in such a unique environment," he said.

Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command is a jointly manned U.S. Pacific Command organization of more than 400 military and civilian specialists that has investigated and recovered missing Americans since the 1970s, officials said, noting that 1,702 Americans still are listed as missing in action from the Vietnam War.
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Border fighting between Cambodian, Thai troops kills 2 near ancient temple

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - Cambodian and Thai troops battled for two hours Friday along a disputed stretch of their shared border, trading artillery fire that killed at least two people near an 11th century temple that is a U.N. World Heritage Site.

The fighting was some of the fiercest in years between the two southeast Asian countries. Tensions between the neighbours have been exacerbated in recent days by pressure from powerful Thai nationalist groups, which have been staging protests in Bangkok urging the government to reclaim the land.

While a cease-fire was quickly reached and full-blown war unlikely, the territorial dispute remains volatile, with nationalist passions inflamed on both sides — and no clear way to settle it.

One Thai villager was killed and four Thai troops were slightly injured, Thai army spokesman Col. Sansern Kaewkamnerd said. In Cambodia, privately owned Bayon TV reported that one Cambodian soldier was killed and five were wounded.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong told reporters Cambodian forces captured four Thai soldiers, a claim denied by Bangkok. He said Cambodia would file a complaint to the U.N. Security Council over the "Thai invasion."

The fighting erupted near the Preah Vihear temple, which belongs to Cambodia. Thailand claims a small patch of land near the temple.

Sporadic artillery fire lasted for more than two hours, but the battle ended after Thailand's defence minister called Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, according to the private Cambodian Television Network. Thailand's Sansern confirmed the cease-fire.

Maj. Prom Sarouen, commander of the Cambodian police unit guarding the temple, said both sides used artillery and heavy machine-guns in the clash. He said some shells had fallen on the temple grounds but did not know if they had caused any damage.

Cambodian Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said troubles began when Thai troops ignored warnings to stop crossing into Cambodia and then sought to remove a Cambodian flag from a small temple in the disputed territory. He said the Cambodians shot into the air and the Thai soldiers returned fire.

Thailand disputed that account. Sansern said the clash was triggered by artillery shots fired from the Cambodian side.

"We don't want to say that it was intentional. It could have been caused by a misunderstanding," Sansern told The Associated Press, adding that Thai troops returned fire as a warning.

A Thai TV station showed villagers fleeing for safety during the clash.

Relations between the two countries have been contentious for years, including a series of small but sometimes deadly skirmishes over the demarcation of the border near Preah Vihear.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple belongs to Cambodia, but the decision rankled Thailand.

The issue was virtually dormant until Cambodia successfully applied in 2008 to UNESCO to have the temple declared a World Heritage site, an application backed by the government in power in Thailand at the time.

Thai nationalists have argued that the action threatened Thailand's sovereignty, though their protests were seen mainly as a way of rallying criticism of the Thai government. Both countries' leaders, defending their patriotic credentials, then built up military forces at the border.

Last week, the nationalist group that seized Bangkok's airports two years ago gathered in the capital to pressure Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva over the land dispute.

The rally by the People's Alliance for Democracy — also known as the Yellow Shirts — and an associated fringe group raised tensions in a country still recovering from political violence last year in which about 90 people died.

The groups said they will escalate their protest on Saturday.
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