Not all dirtbags in the MIA issue are Americans; there are folks of other nationalities
who have discovered that they can gain notoriety or money off the MIA issue so they join
up. Khambang Sibounheuang, a Laotian émigré living now (December 2001) near
Nashville, TN, is one of these. Khambang has been the source of numerous phony
stories -- and in many cases he has demanded money for information. He has no
information and he's a dirtbag.
In Laos during the Vietnam War there were three major factions: the Royalists
lined up behind the king of Laos; the Communists with their armed force, the Pathet Lao;
and the Neutralists under "Prince" Kong Le (a former Laotian paratroop captain,
Kong Le later referred to himself as "prince" although no one knew Prince of
What). Khambang had been an enlisted man in Kong
Le's neutralist army, achieving the rank of private first class. When he arrived in
the US in 1975, he immediately promoted himself to captain. There are indications
that Khambang had been asked by the Neutralists to help gain funding for their cause -- to
overthrow the communist government that took over Laos in 1975.
First contact: 1985
In April 1985, Khambang approached the Defense Intelligence Agency, claiming that he
wanted to talk about POWs. In a meeting with two Laotian desk officers Khambang
stated that he was going to Thailand to visit his family and, if DIA would advance him
$4,000, he would look for information on prisoners and missing. The DIA officers
declined but told Khambang that, if he learned anything, they would welcome his sharing it
with them upon his return.
In July 1985, the officers with whom Khambang had met sent him a letter stating that,
since they had not heard from him, they assumed he had no information. That got
Khambang rolling. He responded by claiming that he had learned about 37 Americans
being held in Laos. When pressed for details, Khambang quickly got to the point:
He needed money -- money for weapons, bribes, and the like. When the DIA
officers refused to come up with the cash, Khambang went off to more fertile fields.
"Mr. Roly/Howard Stephenson" Emerges
At this time, Khambang was working as a security guard in Nashville. He met an
individual named Frank Lockhart, an electronics salesman who claimed to have a Ph.D. in
psychology. Khambang fed Lockhart stories about his exploits and about US POWs held
in caves in Laos.
At the same time, Khambang was feeding the same line of crap to two Americans, Lance
Trimmer and Gordon Wilson who were working with "Bo"
Gritz. Khambang gave them a number of stories
about US POWs held in the middle of Hanoi and in remote mountain caves in Laos.
Meanwhile, Gritz had not told Trimmer and Wilson that he was working with Kong Le.
Learning the Khambang was an associate of Kong Le, Trimmer and Wilson asked for a meeting
with Kong Le. A meeting was set up in Paris -- Kong Le thought Trimmer and Wilson
were government agents who had been authorized to work with the Neutralists -- and Trimmer
and Wilson bought Khambang a plane ticket. While in France, Khambang arranged to
have a photo of an American POW provided to him -- it never appeared so everyone went back
Later, Khambang surfaced the promised photo. It showed a skinny, bearded,
shaggy-haired man with somewhat Caucasian features, clad only in long, dark trousers.
Khambang identified him as "Mr. Roly." Lockhart jumped into the
affair and sent the photo to former Navy Captain and ex-POW "Red" McDaniel,
himself the perpetrator of a number of phony stories. Lockhart, using a list of
names of missing men, claimed that the man in the photo was USAF LTC Charles Rowley who
had been shot down over Laos in 1970. He based this "identification" on
the fact the "Roly" sounded like "Rowley." Meanwhile, DIA
identified the photo as one that had been turned in earlier by another source who claimed
it was missing American Howard Stephenson -- although the source identified him a
"Phenson." Stephenson and Rowley family members stated that the photo bore
no resemblance to their missing man and DIA felt the photo had come from a propaganda
This photo has surfaced time and again, mainly from individuals trying to
convince us that they have information about live US POW's. People with
the photo have claimed it is "Mr. Roly," "Mr. Phenson," and other names that
resemble the names of missing Americans. It is not a photo of any missing
American, though we never determined who this really is.
Lockhart and Khambang were not satisfied so they sold the photo to Life
magazine who printed the phony picture as part of a special POW-MIA issue. All this
so embarrassed and angered Kong Le that he fired Khambang and told him to have nothing to
do with the Neutralist organization. Khambang did not bother to tell anyone else
about this -- he continued to represent himself as the successor to his "uncle,"
Khambang is Promoted to Colonel
By late 1989 Khambang had moved to Arlington, Virginia, where he was working as a clerk
in the police department. He contacted author Susan Katz-Keating who, at the time,
was working on her book Prisoners of Hope.
He attempted to interest her in some information, claiming that she could trust him
because he was an Arlington police officer. When she told him that she knew an
Arlington police officer, Khambang hung up and had no further contact.
DIA was approached by members of a local American Legion post who told quite a tale.
It seems they had been approached by a "colonel in the Lao resistance"
who told them that he and his organization knew the whereabouts of two Americans being
held in a cave in Laos. The two men were to take $10,000 each and go to Thailand
where they would meet resistance contacts -- the group would then go into Laos and rescue
the Americans. At the same time, a Washington Times photographer was
approached by the same Legionnaires with the same story. They took him to a meeting
with the "colonel" -- who turned out to be Khambang.
In the presence of the photographer -- who tape recorded the conversation -- Khambang
called a friend of his in Thailand and told the friend that he needed information on
"the Americans." The friend in Thailand had not a clue what Khambang was
talking about but, after Khambang repeatedly asked for information "about the
Americans," the guy caught on and promised to send information. Shortly
thereafter, Khambang passed to the photographer a cassette tape. At the same time,
the same tape was provided to DIA by other sources in Thailand. There is a voice on
the tape of an individual claiming to be an American who asks that he be rescued.
The problem is, the voice clearly is not that of a native English speaker, much of the
tape makes no sense, and the recording -- supposedly made deep in a jungle cave -- has
children laughing and squealing in the background and at one point a helicopter flies
The legionnaires were convinced that Khambang was a scam artist, the Washington
Times photographer had recognized that fact long ago, and Khambang was dropped.
Never fear, though -- Khambang moved to Nashville where he went to work as a bailiff
for Judge Hamilton Gayden -- Khambang and Gayden were to surface more nonsense, only this
time under the cover of Gayden's judicial robes.
As I have descried in the article on events
of 1991, Khambang and his judge friend were part of a bigger scam.
In the summer of 1991, a photo surfaced of a balding, dark complexioned man sitting in
a wooded area. MIA parents Dan and Betty Borah claimed that the man was their son,
USN Lieutenant Daniel Borah, shot down over Vietnam in 1972.
The Borah photograph was found to be a picture of a seventy-year-old man from a Laotian
hill tribe; his name was Ahroe, he lived in Muang Nong, Laos, and he was
French-Laotian. He had been photographed by a Laotian refugee who gave some copies
of his photographs to a friend who gave them to -- you guessed it -- Khambang
Sibounheuang, a Laotian émigré living in Nashville, TN.
Khambang had shown the photos to his boss, Hamilton Gayden. Gayden looked
through a Life magazine article on POWs until he found a "match" and
declared that this was a photo of Borah. Gayden withheld the photos from DIA
and contacted the Borah family who "positively identified" the photo. The
family called Senator Bob Smith for guidance. DIA contacted Smith and asked for
copies of the photo. Smith refused. Then, Smith and Mr. Borah appeared
on the Today show where Smith -- get this -- accused DIA of trying to suppress the
photo!! (How does DIA suppress what they do not even have?)
Later , the Borah family went to Laos and met Ahroe who confirmed that he was the man
in the photo. Ahroe was fingerprinted and photographed to prove that he was not a
brainwashed Borah. Still, the "Borah" photo is an article of faith among
the MIA faithful. Follow this link to see the phony photo.
( Footnote: Borah was shot down in September
1972. His wingman observed him eject with a good chute; Borah made one transmission
on his survival radio in which he said he was surrounded by enemy soldiers; he was never
heard from again. Shortly after the shootdown, US forces observed enemy troops
removing Borah's parachute from a tree. In 1996, DIA researchers located an
eyewitness who described the burial of a dead American at a location that matched Borah's
loss. A search of the are found a gravesite that was excavated. A badly-eroded
human skeleton, 19 teeth, and fragments of flight suit and survival gear were found in the
grave. The remains were identified as those of Borah. )
Ten years later
This article is being prepared in December 1991 -- a decade after the events of 1991.
The MIA issue has all but disappeared from the US press, surfacing only when
remains are returned an identified. US personnel are stationed in Hanoi, Vientiane,
and Phnom Phen where they conduct searches, interviews of eyewitness, and document
research in archives -- all to find information that will lead to recovery of the remains
of missing Americans.
The Khambang Sibounheuangs and Hamilton Gaydens have disappeared -- or have they?
In late November 2001, I received a series of e-mail messages from an individual
claiming to know Khambang. He told me what a great guy Khambang is, how he knows the
Borah photos are real, how Khambang was not treated properly by DIA and the Senate Select
Committee, yadda, yadda. I suppose even a dirtbag needs a friend.
Date prepared: December 2001