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American on Illegal Trip Captured, Cambodia Says

September 23, 1987|United Press International

BANGKOK, Thailand — The official Cambodian news agency on Tuesday reported the capture of an American Vietnam War veteran who it said entered the Communist country illegally, possibly in search of missing U.S. servicemen.

The news agency SPK, in a dispatch monitored in Bangkok, said a border patrol captured Sterling Brian Bono, 35, of Las Animas, Colo., on May 2 inside Cambodian territory.

The SPK report did not disclose any further information about Bono's whereabouts or whether he might be deported or have to stand trial.

In Colorado, Bruce Bono, the captive's brother, said Sterling Bono left Las Animas, a farming community in the southeastern part of the state, in late March to visit refugee camps along the border of Thailand and Cambodia.

"He had seen a folder with a composite of refugees on it, and there was someone there he recognized from when he served in Vietnam," Bruce Bono said. "He wanted to try to get in contact with them and try to bring them back and get them some help. He wasn't looking for MIAs," he said.

Bruce Bono said he last heard from his brother in May. He said his mother received a letter last month from a friend of Sterling Bono saying, "Brian had gone across the border and been captured and put in prison."

Olarn Chaimuenwong, a Thai national and a friend of Bono, said the two recently were in Aranyaprathet, the last Thai town before the border with Cambodia. Olarn also said Bono had informed him of his intention to cross the border in search of American servicemen still listed as missing in action.

There are 83 American servicemen and eight U.S. civilians listed as missing in action in Cambodia.

Patrolled by Troops

The area where Bono reportedly entered Cambodia is usually heavily patrolled by Cambodian soldiers and Vietnamese troops who back the pro-Hanoi Communist government in Phnom Penh.

A spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok said American authorities were aware of the report of Bono's capture and were trying to confirm it. Washington does not recognize the government of Heng Samrin, installed by Hanoi in 1979 after the ouster of the Khmer Rouge, who had imposed a bloody dictatorship on the country of 8 million.

The U.S. government has held frequent MIA talks with Laotian and Vietnamese officials, but there has been no official contact with the Phnom Penh government.

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