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Cambodian War Veterans Seek US Recognition

Mr. Hach Heoun, chairman of International Khmer Assembly at Reagan airport, Washington, DC, Monday, March 10, 2014.

A group of Cambodia-American war veterans says it wants US congressional recognition of Cambodian fighters who joined US forces in the wars of Indochina in the 1960s.

Members of the International Khmer Assembly say they want formal, legal recognition for former veterans, who backed the US in Vietnam and Cambodia.

“Not just verbal recognition,” said Hach Hoeun, head of the organization, who arrived in Washington this week to meet with military and congressional officials.

In Minnesota, that recognition came through a resolution in April 2012, he said. Now members want the same thing nationally.

Scott Walker, the former director of the International Khmer Assembly, said the US has never officially recognized Cambodian veterans who fought alongside its troops during the Indochinese wars.

“So, as a last gesture before they pass a way, it’s very important to them that they are at least are recognized for historical reasons, that they did help United States,” he said. “They cherish United States law, they cherish the constitution, and it’s a dying wish for many of these veterans to have that recognition. And this is our attempt to get that done.”

The veterans’ delegation this week hopes to meet with military officials at the Department of Defense, as well as congressional staffers and the State Department. Officials from those offices have not replied to VOA Khmer requests for interviews on the meetings.

But veterans like Son Tieng, who fought alongside US troops in 1967 and is now a barber in California, support the initiative. “Because they are old, and are about 60 or 70 years old now,” he said. Recognition could help veterans, perhaps even financially, he said.

Prom Saunora, an analyst in Virginia, said he hopes Congress will recognize the Cambodian veterans. With Minnesota passing legislation, perhaps the nation’s capital will do the same, he said. “That’s why the group has come to Washington to push for recognition.”