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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NGO offers KR deal to free hostages

NGO offers KR deal to free hostages

A N NGO has offered to provide water well drilling equipment and training to the

Khmer Rouge in exchange for the release of four staff, including a US woman, who

were taken hostage.

Robin Shell, director of Food for the Hungry

International, said: "We are negotiating with the KR using the normal

development approach, providing them with equipment and training so that they

can dig water wells themselves."

Shell said originally nine Cambodians

were kidnapped on March 31 by the KR, 20 km south of Kampot's district town of


"Five captives were released two hours later to take back the

message that the KR wanted an expatriate to come and negotiate about wells."

Melissa Himes, a 24-year-old American relief official with FHI, went

that afternoon to negotiate the release of the rest of the captives when she was

herself taken hostage by the KR.

Shell said: "We have sought advice from

Crisis Consultants, a US company specializing in the release of kidnap victims,

we've decided to adopt a low-key approach which we believe is the best way to

solve the problem.

"Negotiations have been conducted through village

messengers. The KR did not ask for money, but they requested we provide them

with three wells.

"We offered instead to give them equipment and

training, now we are waiting for their response, we would like to help them with

wells as much as anybody else."

He added: "I feel confident but

concerned, we want our staff to come back. Two letters sent so far from Melissa

say she and her colleagues have been well-treated."

The KR carried out a

number of kidnappings of foreigners last year during the election process. All

the hostages were released unharmed.

Sources speculate that their well

digging activity may have been tapping into the KR's already limited water

supplies in the region.



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