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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Himes said: "I had complete faith in my God that nothing
would happen to us."