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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Train raid "not planned for hostages"

Train raid "not planned for hostages"

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.

Rin

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

time.

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

returned.

"They were very happy to have the foreigners," he

said.

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."

The three

were taken to be held prisoner in a thatched hut about 300m from Paet's own

home.

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

release them.

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.

"I

had a lack of medicine. I gave some but I didn't have hopes of him getting

better.

"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

English.

"I asked 'What is your nationality, how old are you'. That was

all. They answered me but I could not understand all they said.

"They

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

15.

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

their bodies."

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

reasons.

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.

"We

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

family.

"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

hostages.

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