THREE Americans seeking evidence of United States servicemen held after the Vietnam War were denied access to what they claim is a prison and asked to leave the country, Vietnamese officials said yesterday. The officials said the three insisted on visiting a sensitive military facility off-limits to foreigners.
The Americans - Billy Hendon, a former US congressman from North Carolina; Beth Stewart, a Washington attorney and daughter of an American pilot shot down during the war; and Lamont Gaston, a veterans' representative - asked to enter the site during a fact-finding trip that began March 20. They were allowed to go to three other prisons to investigate reported live sightings of Americans. Two of the three prisons they saw had housed US prisoners prior to the withdrawal of the last US troops from Vietnam in 1973. The Americans also were refused a request to interview Hoang Dinh My, who is said to have seen American prisoners. My is serving a life sentence on charges of conspiring with other overseas Vietnamese to overthrow the Hanoi government in 1984.
US Army Lt. Col. John Cray, commander of the US MIA office in Vietnam, said Mr. Hendon had not contacted him during his visit. But Colonel Cray said his task force has investigated a number of Vietnamese prisons, one as recently as last month, for signs of missing Americans.
The US lists 2,234 Americans as unaccounted for from the war: 1,643 in Vietnam, 505 in Laos, 78 in Cambodia, and eight in China. Talks held on Khmer Rouge hostages
NEGOTIATIONS were under way yesterday with Khmer Rouge guerrillas for the release of an American woman and three Cambodian employees of a Christian relief organization who were abducted last week. Melissa Himes of California and the three Cambodians, all employees of the Geneva-based Food for the Hungry International (FHI), were seized by the guerrillas in Cambodia's Kampot Province last Thursday.
FHI is a rural development organization that has been working with the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture digging wells in the province.
``We got a message on Sunday that they are fine and being well treated,'' said Robin Shell, a director of FHI. She said the guerrillas were demanding that the organization provide water drilling equipment and training in exchange for the hostages' release.