Charles A. Ray, former U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, said on Tuesday that there are 54 U.S. soldiers still missing in action (MIAs) in Cambodia.
"The parents of those soldiers are still asking us about their sons and if they died. Their parents need the evidence," Charles told some 100 media management students at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.
Ray, also a veteran in the Vietnam War, said that in the ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, his team will conduct investigation of archives and villages to seek out details that might lead them to aircraft crash sites or to potential burial location.
"But we are faced with rigid border-crossing rules and regulations. Our investigations have often been halted for months or longer, while negotiations must take place. Such delays are devastating to the progress of a case, and especially to the families who are waiting and hoping that answers on their missing loved ones will be forthcoming," said Ray, who arrived here on Monday in capacity of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs.
"Cambodia has set up an example for the other nations in this region and the citizens of the U.S. recognized that," added Ray, who was ambassador to Cambodia from 2002 to 2005 and got his current post in September 2006.
Meanwhile, he noted, Prime Minister Hun Sen said in Siem Reap in 2004 that the mission of recovering the remains of U.S. soldiers offered new venues of cooperation between Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
"The relation between Cambodia and the U.S. is up and down and sometimes is rocky," he said, adding that presently both sides cooperate nearly in all sectors and "it is a positive sign."
Ray, reportedly on a special mission to find out the whereabouts of the missing U.S. soldiers in Cambodia, is expected to meet King Sihamoni and Hun Sen on Wednesday.