BELGIAN couple, who went missing in remote Preah Vihear province, are being
held by the Khmer Rouge, possibly at Anlong Veng, a UN officer investigating the
Major Jan Wanderstein, a UN MLT officer and one of Phnom
Penh's few expat Belgians, was asked by Brussels to probe the disappearance of
Michel Baran, 31, a UN economic researcher with Escap and his girlfriend
Nathalie Roobaert, 21.
They went missing on May 23 on a visit to Preah
Vihear temple which lies on the Thai border.
Wanderstein said: "I have
reason to believe that the Belgian couple is being held by the Khmer Rouge and I
think they were brought to another area such as Anlong Veng. Therefore I'm
rather optimistic and I think that sooner or later we will start receiving
signals about their whereabouts.
"I don't think the RCAF are involved in
the kidnapping. They are doing their best to help us and the nearest
RCAF-checkpoint is situated more than 15 km from the temple.
couple were last seen by Thai troops on the road to the temple on the Thai side
of the border and their car was found two days later on the temple parking
"Everybody knows that there is only one road leading to the temple
and that it is very difficult to approach the complex through the jungle. That's
why I strongly believe that my compatriots are being kept by the Khmer Rouge
because it is this organisation that is currently occuppying the temple.", the
"Since then nobody recieved any news anymore. I personally
went up the Preah Vihar province to investigate the case and talked there with
several provincial and army officials but nobody could give me any
"At the end of this week I plan to interview a couple of KR
soldiers who just recently deserted their units in the Preah Vihear
There has been no authenticated contact with kidnappers, though
there has been a hoax call.
Major Wanderstein said: "A couple of weeks
ago the sister of Nathalie Roobaert received a phone call from a man who claimed
to be one of the kidnappers but we do not take this phone call seriously. We
think he was just trying to extort [cash from] the family and we don't even know
wether the man called out of Thailand or out of Cambodia."
associated with the case have questioned whether the couple are still alive and
point out that the KR have formally denied being behind their disappearance.
Some say the kidnappers may be bandits acting independently.
close to the investigation said Baran was known to be deeply interested in Khmer
and Thai culture and may have believed he could get permission from the Khmer
Rouge to visit the temple. It was a popular attraction for visitors until it
fell to the guerrillas last year soon after the polls.