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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Red train bandit felled by bolt from blue

Red train bandit felled by bolt from blue

Tea Sarim, the Khmer Rouge commander who led the attack on a train that resulted

in the kidnapping and executions of three western backpackers in July 1994, has died

after being struck by a bolt of lightning, relatives and friends said.

Tet Nuon, a former Khmer Rouge soldier and commune chief in Chamkar Bei, Kampot Province,

said Sarim died in mid-May while visiting a neighbor when the house was hit by lightning.

"He was sitting inside the house when the lightning hit," he said.

Three backpackers, Australian David Wilson, Briton Mark Slater and Frenchman Jean-Michel

Braquet were abducted during the attack in Kampot about 150 kilometers south of Phnom


They were shot in the head three months later on the orders of Khmer Rouge leader

Pol Pot following a botched attempt to meet a $50,000 ransom demand.

Two former Khmer Rouge leaders - Sam Bith and Nuon Paet - are currently serving life

sentences for their role in the executions. A third Chhouk Rin, faces jail but is

currently free pending an appeal.

In Chamkar Bei, Nuon said the traditional Khmer home was badly damaged in the lightning

strike and its owners later had it leveled amid fears of bad karma

Nuon also clarified confusion surrounding the death of Vet Vorn, the man ordered

to oversee the executions. He said Bith and Paet had agreed to defect to the government

towards the end of 1996 but Vorn, a strict adherent to the ultra-Maoist ideology

of the Khmer Rouge, had refused. Bith subsequently ordered Paet to kill Vorn.



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