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Foreigners warned to stay in towns

Foreigners warned to stay in towns

BRITISH nationals were warned by embassy officials on Tuesday (April 19) not to

travel out of city areas without a police escort as it was claimed the Khmer

Rouge were deliberately targeting Westerners for kidnap.

The warnings

came in the wake of the abduction of three Western expatriates, two Britons, and

an Australian, who were forced from their taxi at gunpoint on Route 4, 100 km

northeast of Sihanoukville on April 11.

A week later an American

expatriate was shot and wounded as he drove along the same road on a motorbike,

30 km south of Kompong Speu, a US embassy official said. He refused to identify

the victim, citing privacy laws.

The man, an NGO worker in his twenties,

was flown to Bangkok for treatment to a bullet wound in his foot and a graze in

his neck, caused when another round came within inches of killing

him.

The three held on the road to Sihanoukville were Briton Dominic

Chappell, 25, his Australian girlfriend Kellie Wilkinson, 24 and their friend

Tina Dominy, also in her 20s.

Mr Chappell and Ms Wilkinson run a

restaurant called Cafe Rendezvous in the Sihanoukville, which is popular with

the expatriate community.

An embassy spokesman confirmed the travel

warning issued on April 19, had been passed on to all 400 expatriates registered

with the British mission.

He said : "Reconfirming that foreigners may be

targeted for abduction, Britons and their staff should confine their work to

Phnom Penh, Battambang, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. They should only drive

between these places under police protection.

"We have asked for

additional police protection for British citizens and the Ministry of the

Interior have said they will try their best."

The US Embassy also issued

a travel warning. It said: "Please excercise extreme caution when travelling

outside the main cities. Travel only during daylight hours, preferably between

0900 and 1500 hours and only in convoy."

Embassy officials publicly

refused to elaborate on the source of their reports that the KR were targetting

Westerners but sources said that they were from local KR commanders. A British

Embassy official said the advice not to travel without police escort was given

out after further weight was lent to the validity of the

reports.

Diplomats claimed they had evidence of a directive from KR

leadership to field commanders throughout the country to target Westerners to be

used as leverage in political negotiations with the Royal Government.

The sources said their intelligence indicated that the commanders had

been told they could hold Westerners for up to two months but were not allowed

to harm them.

NGOs, many of whom have Westerners working in rural area,

had yet to react to the travel warnings as the Post went to press, but at least

one had temporarily withdrawn workers from Kompong Chhnang

province.

Another convoy of 30 NGO vehicles which was to have travelled

down to Sihanoukville for the Khmer New Year did not run after news of the

kidnappings broke.

It was still unclear exactly who was holding the three

hostages as the Post went to press. British Embassy officials cited Khmer Rouge

involvement but some diplomatic sources said the kidnappers were former

guerrillas turned bandits.

The Khmer Rouge has denied publicly it was

behind the kidnapping of the three, though it admitted being responsible for the

abduction of American aid worker Melissa Himes on March 21. This week she had

still not been released despite a letter to the faction from His Majesty King

Norodom Sihanouk.

The King and Co-Premier Norodom Ranariddh have also

been asked to intervene in the cases of the other three.

,

Earlier,

reports indicated the trio's captors were force-marching the hostages up to 10

km each day to confound authorities.

While Chappell and Dominy are

British passport holders they have lived in Hong Kong for some time. Mr

Chappell, who hails originally from Stoke, England met Ms Wilkinson, from

Melbourne while they were working in Hong Kong in the restaurant trade and as

models.

A British Embassy official said he had been told by Cambodian

authorities that the Westerners were being held in the foothills of a range of

mountains separating Kampot and Kompong Som provinces.

The

heavily-forested area lies about 20 km from Route 4 between Phnom Penh and

Sihanoukville, where the three were snatched from a taxi on Monday.

It is

an area which has long been under the control of the faction, which is blamed

for the deaths of one million Cambodians during four years in power in the

1970s..

The diplomat said no ransom demands had been received but

others, including an unidentified police captain in Sihanoukville, said the

guerrillas wanted $10,000 a head for the Westerners' release.

The army

commander of the area assured the British Embassy official that no military

action to free the hostages would be taken without consultation with British and

Australian authorities

Another Western diplomat and local residents said

the trio spent their first night in captivity at a saw mill jointly owned by the

guerrillas and a Khmer businessman.

They then were marched 10 km to a

Khmer Rouge village where they spent their second night.

Miss

Wilkinson's father Peter and brother Sean were taken to Sihanoukville under

police escort where they met British and Australia officials who have been

investigating the kidnappings.

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