H OPES that at least one of the three foreigners taken hostage on Route 4 to
Sihanoukville would be released after nearly two months were dashed early last
week. The much-anticipated release was supposed to have taken place on June
"We were hoping to hear something at least today, but nothing's
happened yet," said David White, a friend and business partner of two of the
hostages, on June 7.
Lieutenant General Heng Hak from the Ministry of
Interior and National Security also reportedly said he had heard that the
captors agreed to release one hostage the previous day.
But days passed
and nothing happened. Said Briton David Chappell, father of Dominic, one of the
hostages: "They're trying to pressure us by building up false hopes."
Dominic, 25, his Australian girlfriend Kelly Wilkinson, 24, run Cafe
Rendevous in Sihanoukville. They were snatched from their taxi just south of the
Sre Ambel turnoff on April 11 along with their British friend Tina Dominy, 23.
The media descended on Sihanoukville in some numbers on the strength of
the rumors of an imminent release. Some Australian television crews even flew in
from Hong Kong. The Seaside Hotel became the center of media operations. It lies
next to Villa Rendevous guesthouse which is run by White and was where Kelly's
father Peter and Chappell senior were staying.
A senior police official
in Sihanoukville said he had heard the proposed release would take place near
Kampot. "We sent someone to verify the claim personally, but by the time he
could return the word had spread," he said.
According to the police
officer, there has been little contact with the captors since the
A monk who was acting as an intermediary was reportedly also
taken hostage early last month, though the abduction did not emerge until June
The three are thought to be held in a known Khmer Rouge area in the
foothills of the range of mountains separating Kompong Som and Kampot provinces.
Police officials believe the captors are not isolated bandits but are at least
associated with the Khmer Rouge.
"They operate secretly, and do not want
the world to know that they are the kidnappers," one senior official said.
Contact has been mainly through villagers in nearby areas, not through
"At first we were not even sure whether they were alive, but
now our sources in the villages tell us they definitely are," the official said.
Earlier, last fortnight, these villagers apparently said that one of the
hostages was ill. Medical supplies from the Australian Embassy were sent in with
the villagers but it is not known if they reached the hostages.
Rouge nominal leader Khieu Samphan late last month denied that the group had
anything to do with the abduction. There has been no other way of identifying
Ransom demands have been toned down, according to police
sources in Sihanoukville. Earlier, the demand was for $150,000 - $50,000 for
each of the captives.
"They are softening their conditions," a police
official said, but refused to specify further. He added that there is little
chance that ransom money will be paid.
Police are unwilling to speculate
about when a release is likely.
They say that in the earlier kidnapping
of American Melissa Himes, there had been far more contact with the
"We just cannot predict the situation clearly, we hope it will not be long,"
a police official said.