Police in Laos have captured two Americans who said they planned to distribute dollar bills stamped with a reward offer for any U.S. servicemen still held captive in Indochina.
Ross Petzing, a U.S. Embassy spokesman, said Donna Long of Jacksonville, N.C., and another American are being held at Ban Sing Samphan in the southern Laotian province of Champasak.
Jerry Kiley of the National Steering Committee for American War Veterans identified the second American as Jim Copp of Hampstead, N.C. Another committee member, John Nevin, said in Washington that neither American had a visa to enter Laos.
State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley told reporters in Washington that the U.S. Consulate in Udorn, Thailand, confirmed that Laotian authorities detained two Americans Monday on the Thai-Laotian border.
“The Americans had rented a boat and were on the Mekong River. The Thai-Lao border does not run along the middle of the river but evidently follows a varying line, and the Americans may have accidentally floated into Lao territory,” Oakley said. “We are waiting for the Lao authorities to inform us whether the Americans will be held and charged or released. Our counsel has not yet met with them.”
On Sunday, Long, 45, said she and Copp, 43, planned to drop plastic bags containing stamped dollars and other currency into the river and pass out money in villages along the Laotian bank of the Mekong, which forms much of the border between Thailand and Laos and also flows through Cambodia and Vietnam. She disclosed the plan on condition it not be revealed until the two left Laos or were captured.
Each bill bears a message offering a $2.4-million reward to anyone delivering an American prisoner of war to the International Red Cross.
The reward is being offered to Cambodians, Laotians and Vietnamese through the National Steering Committee for American War Veterans, a private group. The committee says the money was pledged by 21 congressmen and the American Defense Institute, another group concerned with missing soldiers.
A Thai hotel manager said the Americans were held in a small house in Ban Sing Samphan. She said Laotian authorities told her Monday they would be freed within three days.
The United States lists 2,393 Americans as still missing in action in the Indochina War, which ended in 1975.