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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Freed Himes tells of compassion for captors

Freed Himes tells of compassion for captors

A

SMILING Melissa Himes emerged from captivity and declared she would be happy

to return to the village of her Khmer Rouge captors whom she felt "a lot of

compassion for."

She said: "Strange as it may seen I would be quite

happy to go back to the village. This has increased my love of Cambodia and my

desire to work here. I'm coming back."

Himes, 24, said she would take a

holiday with her family in Winston-Salem, North Carolina before returning to her

work with the Christian aid organization Food for the Hungry

International.

She was released on May 11 after 41 days captivity along

with her colleagues Pok Bak and Von Yee in exchange for a truck-load of goods

for the village. Among the items given were three tonnes of rice, 100 bags of

cement, 100 aluminium roofing sheets, medicines and 1,500 cans of

fish.

FHI's Country Director Dr Alan Haslett, who conducted the

negotiations leading to the releases, stressed that no money had been paid to

the kidnappers. He did say he receieved ransom demands for sums ranging between

$2,000 and $1 million during the early part of the negotiations.

Dr

Haslett said he thought there was no link between the FHI kidnappings and those

of three Westerners who were snatched from a taxi on Route 4 by armed men

believed to be KR.

Interior Minister You Hockry said there were reports

of sightings of the trio but contact had still not been made with the

kidnappers.

Briton Dominic Chappell, 25 and his Australian girlfriend

Kelly Wilkinson, 24, had been travelling down to the restaurant they run in

Sihanoukville along with their British friend Tina Dominy, 23, when they were

abducted 120 km south of the capital on April 11.

Himes was held along

with seven FHI Khmer staff when they went to Krang Leav village in Dang Tung

district of Kampot province to negotiate the release of three colleagues and the

return of a stolen pickup truck.

The pickup was not returned in the

exchange but all except three of the Khmer staff were released after Himes was

captured.

During the final stages of negotiations Bak and Vee bravely

shuttled messages in and out of the village five times, knowing each time they

were walking back into captivity. They said they also wanted to keep Himes

company.

She said she was for the most part well treated and did not

undergo any hardships or sickness having become used to living in Khmer villages

through her work.

Her worst moment occured when a friendly Khmer Rouge

soldier came to her hut and told her some of his colleagues were planning to

kill her in two days after hearing Royal Government troops were closing in on

the village.

She said: "I really didn't want to think about it, only that

'God if it's my time, it's my time.' " The threat was lifted after the

government soldiers moved away.

FHI was engaged in a water supply program

in the area and the hostages spent their first days in captivity digging wells,

for the village off Route 3 which is home to 500 people.

The three then

idled away most of the rest of their time and were able to listen to the radio

and read dozens of messages of support brought in by

intermediaries.

Himes said: "I had complete faith in my God that nothing

would happen to us."

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