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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Close shave after brush with death

Close shave after brush with death

F rench traveler Jacques Righi told how he and a friend were within seconds of

being executed by a gang of robbers on the road out of Kratie.

Righi, 31,

said he and Francois Bot, 24, were about to be shot along with a young Khmer man

when an army truck came by, allowing them to escape in the ensuing

firefight.

The three, together with several other travelers then walked

for several hours in single file in bushland beside the road, fearing they would

tread on a mine, before finally reaching safety.

The highway repairman is

so grateful at surviving the ordeal he has shaved his hair off in a traditional

Buddhist gesture.

Righi, two months into a three-month holiday traveling

round the country, said: "I never expected to get out of it alive. I don't know

why they decided they wanted to execute us foreigners, I've never heard of

anything happening like this before."

He and Bot were heading for Stung

Treng when the shared taxi they were traveling in was stopped by the robbers 30

km out of Kratie.

The gang of eight youths, armed with AK-47s and two

rocket-propelled grenade launchers ordered the car into a side road.

The

young Khmer man who was traveling in the taxi with them advised them to look

down at the ground and hand over their money. He translated what the gang,

dressed in civilian clothes, was saying.

Righi, who lives in a village

100 km south of Bordeaux, said: "They were pulling everyone over. There was also

two logging trucks, a car and motorcycle riders down the side road. They told us

to get out of the car and hand over our valuables.

"I gave them all the

money I had, $130 and they took everything else I had, a gold necklace and even

the food and water we brought with us."

Bot, from Nevers, France, had $50

and a $1,000 Minolta camera stolen.

Righi said the gang, aged between 17

and 20, then began talking amongst themselves.

He said: "The Khmer man

told us they were saying they were going to execute him and us. They walked

towards us and cocked their guns but just as they did so an army truck came by

and they ran off.

"We couldn't see what was happening but there was a lot

of shooting and somebody told us later that one of the soldiers had been

killed.

"We were afraid the robbers would come looking for us if they

escaped from the soldiers and we and some of the other people ran into the

bushes beside the road.

"We then walked for six or seven km. We tried to

stay out of sight but we were very afraid there were mines and used the

footsteps of the person in front of us."

Finally they got back on to the

road and waved down a car which took them to Stung Treng.

Righi said: "I

still think Cambodia is a great place to take a holiday but I certainly won't be

traveling overland on that road again and would advise other people not to

either."

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