The possible remains of a US serviceman who was killed in a village outside Sihanoukville in 1975 were handed over to US Ambassador Joseph Mussomeli during a ceremony at Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday morning.
A four-person honor guard marched the flag-draped coffin to a waiting KC135 US Air Force plane, which will take the remains to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command’s Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii for forensic analysis.
A positive identification has yet to be made of the remains.
James Pokines, a forensic anthropologist from JPAC who worked on the dig, said that his team had been looking for the remains of a serviceman executed by Cambodian communist forces in November 1975 in Prey Nop commune’s Bat Se Moan village.
He declined to reveal further details until positive identification could be made and the family of the deceased notified.
According to the US Embassy, an additional 55 US servicemen are thought to be still missing in Cambodia.
Prey Nop commune police chief Sam Sokha said Monday that village elders had talked of a US soldier who walked from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville after the city’s fall in April 1975.
“When he arrived, he was called to be killed,” he said. He added that US officials found a leg bone, arm bone, and skull near a local canal Friday.
Local villagers were paid $6 and a kilo of rice per day to help with the excavation work, and a landowner whose coconut tree and banana trees were damaged by the excavation was paid $700, he said.
The 18-man joint investigation team began its work Aug 15.
Efforts to locate two US pilots who died in a 1971 helicopter crash in Kompong Cham province’s Dambe district were unsuccessful, Pokines said.
This was JPAC’s 37th mission to Cambodia, and investigators plan to return in October and January, he added.
General Pol Saroeun, RCAF deputy commander in chief and chairman of the Cambodian POW/MIA Committee, also presided over the ceremony.