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Wilson family dispute Aust report

C ANBERRA - The father of executed Melbourne backpacker David Wilson described as

"disgraceful" an Australian government department report attempting to

justify the actions of the former Labor government and Australian officials during

the 1994 hostage crisis.

Peter Wilson said the Department of Foreign Affairs report sent to a Senate committee

of inquiry was intended to protect the image of the Cambodian government and its

army at any price.

Wilson said it was also intended to make his family feel guilty that David "caused

so much trouble and expense to the Cambodian government... and [that it] contained

obvious untruths, bias and exaggerations."

Wilson said he had to shake his head in shame and disbelief when he read the report

because it showed how a federal department could be so inhumane in its attempts to

save an innocent Australian.

He said the "bottom line" was that the department wanted his family to

accept that David and two European friends were sacrificed by the Cambodian government

and army in return for defections from the Khmer Rouge.

He said the department partly approved of this line because it saw and approved of

the advantage the defections gave the Cambodian government.

The Australian Senate is investigating the way Foreign Affairs handled the kidnapping

and execution of Wilson, 29, Mark Slater, 28, of Britain and Jean-Michel Braquet,

29, of France.

The committee is attempting to bring to Australia the key Cambodian negotiator, General

Chea Dara, who was sidelined from his job after negotiating payment of a $150,000

ransom.

Dara is now believed to be somewhere in France.

The three were killed after Cambodian officers ordered troops to shell the KR mountain

base in Phnom Voar, near Kampot, where they were being held.

Wilson described as "amazing" the 17-page report's assertion that it was

probably not useful to ask why the KR commander Paet killed the hostages because

the group's record showed it had never given a second's thought to acting on a murderous

whim.

This was untrue, Wilson said, because Paet had survived many years as an effective

kidnapper and ransom negotiator.

Wilson said that after two years the department concluded that it still didn't know

whether Paet or his former associate Chhuck Rin - now an army general after his later

defection - had actually carried out the murders.

Wilson said the department didn't want to admit the most logical explanation was

that Paet, to save his own life, did a deal to kill the hostages in exchange for

the army letting him escape.

"This would make the Cambodian government and army happy as on the surface this

action would justify all their previous tactical moves," Wilson said.

The report said that nobody "could say with confidence that David Wilson would

have been released if the level of coordination and experience in the Cambodian administration

had been higher." Wilson said this was nothing but an apology to the Cambodian

government and did not stand up to examination.

Wilson said the Australian, French and British Governments had to appeal on 24 occassions

to Phnom Penh to try to stop an assault on the mountain.

Wilson said that his son on at least three seperate occassions wrote that he was

more worried about being killed by a Cambodian government shell than by the Khmer

Rouge.

Wilson also disputed the department's claim that it kept his family fully informed

of events as they unfolded. Of 52 reported events over two months only 18 were relayed

to his family, he said.

Australia's ambassador in Phnom Penh, Tony Kevin, is scheduled to testify before

the senate inquiry on November 25.

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