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Hopes of captives' release decline

Hopes of captives' release decline

A S the Post went to press hopes for the early release of the three western hostages seemed dashed, as increasingly their lives are becoming valuable bargaining chips in a widening political struggle.

Britain Mark Slater, 28, Jean-Michel Braquet, 27, from France and Australian David Wilson, 29, were taken hostage on July 26 following a Khmer Rouge train ambush in Southern Kampot province in which 13 people were killed.

On Aug 16 the Khmer Rouge upped the ante when in a radio broadcast they said the hostages could only be released if Western governments agreed to not supply military aid and other assistance to the Royal government.

The broadcast made a mockery of KR nominal leader Khieu Samphan's Aug 4 letter to the King where he denied KR involvement in the abductions.

The KR broadcast said the three foreigners were alive and well and would be released if "the three governments of the hostages [France, England, Australia] stop sending all kinds of assistance to the two headed government [Royal Government]..."

"The ambassadors of the three countries in Phnom Penh on behalf of their governments must officially and openly declare they will stop sending military aid to the two headed government at the present as well as in the future

"All military personal [sent by these governments to Cambodia] must be dispatched back [to their home countries]...."

"If the [foreign] governments agree with the above requests the problem will be solved ... [and the KR] demands the problem be solved within 15 days."

The government responded to the broadcast by encircling the Phnom Vour base where the westerners were being held with a large build-up of soldiers and artillery.

They then reportedly began heavily attacking KR positions near the mountain base.

But then on Aug 19 hostage Mark Slater made a widely monitored radio communication with the London Sunday Times where he begged that the Royal government be convinced to stop the bombings.

He said: "I am very weak because of the stress and bombings... it is as if they are bombing to kill us. I don't think the Cambodian Government wants us out of here to tell you the truth.

"The government should pay the ransom directly to the Khmer Rouge.... There is no way for us to leave if [the] ransom is not met."

Wilson said that continued shelling by encircling local army units was putting their lives in jeopardy.

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