KHMER Rouge leader Pol Pot was immediately informed when three foreigners were
found during the Kampot train ambush in July, according to raid leader
Lieutenant Colonel Chhouk Rin.
Rin said the discovery of the three - Briton Mark Slater, Frenchman
Jean-Michel Braquet and Australian David Wilson - prompted a flurry of radio
communications between KR chiefs.
Pol Pot - along with the two general in
charge of KR activities in Kampot - was adamant they be kept hostage.
said he had no idea that foreign tourists would be on the train beforehand; the
ambush had been planned to rob passengers of belongings and disrupt the
government transport system.
He first knew of the foreigners during the
ambush, near the foot of KR-occupied Phnom Vour [Vine Mountain] on July 26, when
the guerrillas who found them radioed him.
The radio conversation was
monitored by Phnom Vour commander General Noun Pact, as well as a General Bet,
in charge of the KR's Koh Sla regional headquarters 28km from the mountain
"When they heard, [they said] there was definitely no order to release
them - that I must send these men to the mountain."
He said he then heard
Paet talking to "No.99 - Pol Pot's code name" - by radio. He did not know where
"No.99", widely believed to be living in northwest Cambodia, was at the
Asked who ultimately made the decision to kidnap the three, he said
Paet and Bet did, "in compliance with Pol Pot's order".
After the train
attack, which saw more than a dozen civilians killed, the foreigners were
marched to Paet's Phnom Vour base.
Rin's teenage son and fellow
guerrilla, Chhouk Ra - who did not take part in the ambush because he was ill -
told the Post his father's troop were in high spirits when they
"They were very happy to have the foreigners," he
Rin said he - and later Paet - interviewed the hostages with the
help of an interpreter soon after their abduction.
"I met them. I simply
asked about their countries, thats why I knew one of them was from Britain, one
from Australia and one from France.
Asked how they appeared, he said they
did not appear frightened.
"They thought they were just tourists and
would be released. I told them that I thought it would be done quickly. I didn't
know it was such a political, military and diplomatic thing."
were taken to be held prisoner in a thatched hut about 300m from Paet's own
Rin claimed he never saw the hostages after that day - he said he
was in control of another part of Phnom Vour 8km away - but later urged Paet to
Other KR defectors told the Post that eight or nine of Paet's most-trusted
men were appointed to guard the foreigners 24 hours a day.
They said they never saw the hostages allowed out of the house [though they
are known to have been at least twice, to have photographs and then a video
taken of them].
Two KR nurses-one transferred from Pailin as the senior
nurse of Phnom Vour shortly before the hostages were taken-were said to be the
only KR who saw them.
The junior nurse, Man Khorn, who defected after
Rin did so on October 15, said he saw them only once for about three hours. He
believed that was 2-3 weeks after they had been kidnapped.
He said Paet
asked him to treat one of them - whom he identified from photographs shown to
him by the Post as Braquet, the Fenchmen-who had a wound to his lower leg and
also had malaria.
Khorn said he was told the wound was caused by a
bamboo stake, a KR booby trap he had walded into while being marched to Phnom
Vour on the day of the abductions.
The wound was quite small but the
man's leg was heavily swollen because it had apparently been left without
treatment, he said.
The man was also quite if from malaria. He had a
fever and was very cold. Khorn said he administered penicillin for several hours
through an IV drip and gave the man quinine pills for the malaria.
had a lack of medicine. I gave some but I didn't have hopes of him getting
"I could not cure him. [I knew] my medicine could not save him
from death," he said.
The other two hostages had seemed alright,
complaining only of minor ailments such as headaches.
Khnorn said he
spoke a little to all three through an interpreter who knew only a little
"I asked 'What is your nationality, how old are you'. That was
all. They answered me but I could not understand all they said.
complained about their [captivity] but I could not understand them well.
"I pitied them because they were foreigners who could not live in the
jungle like I could."
None of them were tied up when he saw them. The
wounded man was lying on a wooden stat bed.
He said he later reported to
Paet about the condition of the man with malaria.
"I said he has got malaria
and I think he will die if you don't release him or get some medicine for him."
Asked what Paet's response had been, he said: "He just kept quiet."
Khorn said he never heard Paet talking about the hostages to anybody. He
did not hear that they had died until after he defected.
The bodies of
the three were found in late October, after the mountain fell to the Royal army.
The causes of death have not been publicly released, though there have been
reports that at least one was bludgeoned, and another shot.
All of the
defectors spoken to by the Post said they did not know when or how the hostages
met their deaths.
Rin maintained that he had no reason to believe they
were dead when he defected - along with hundreds of fellow guerrillas - on Oct
He said that when he later helped lead the Royal Cambodian Armed
Forces' final assault on Phnom Vour-which found Paet had fled with his few
remaining soldiers-he expected to find the hostages.
"I thought I would
fight to get them but when I got there I couldn't find them. Then people found
He said he had decided to defect after his relations with
Paet, who had been a close friend for years, grew increasingly bad for several
He said he had argued with Paet over whether the foreigners
should be released, and there had also been tension between them about
"something which happened a long time ago". He was not more specific.
didn't stay close. Paet and I didn't trust each other. He said I preferred the
Royal government, especially the King."
The situation had become so
serious that the KR leadership in northern Cambodia were aware that "Paet and I
were not in harmony with each other"
Rin's teenage son, Chhouk Ra told
the Post in a separate interview that he had feared Paet would have killed his
"Paet was very unhappy with us. My father exchanged very strong
words, they were very angry together."
Ra painted a picture of a bitter
falling out between the two men over Paet taking all of the booty from Rin's
raids and over Rin's belief that the KR should accept a ransom deal for the