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Aust to probe claims hostages killed for political reasons

Aust to probe claims hostages killed for political reasons

AUSTRALIA'S new government has called for a "frank and fearless" enquiry

into allegations that the Cambodian government sabotaged the release of three hostages

in 1994 - later killed by the Khmer Rouge - for political reasons.

A Senate committee heard "secret evidence" from KNP leader and former Finance

Minister Sam Rainsy that written proof had been gathered by Chea Dara, a general

who had been sacked as the key negotiator for the release of the hostages in August

1994, the Melbourne Age reported.

Rainsy told the committee that military action against the KR holding the hostages

intensified at the time they were due to be released; that Dara was replaced by a

hard-line military officer; and that "an official close to Prince Norodom Ranariddh

intervened to stop the release of one hostage, Jean-Michel Braquet, on 19 August

1994," the Age said.

Ranariddh reacted angrily from Phnom Penh saying that the government had done all

it could - including having paid a $200,000 ransom - to secure the release of Australian

David Wilson, Frenchman Braquet and Brit Mark Slater.

Ranariddh said that Rainsy's allegations were absolutely wrong and were politically

motivated.

The evidence before the committee, the Age said, "contradicts some of the former

Labor Government's version of events that led to the killings, and could damage the

Howard Government's relations with Cambodia."

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