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Inquest reopened in backpacker's killing

Inquest reopened in backpacker's killing

AN AUSTRALIAN state government is set to reopen its official inquest into the 1994 killing by the Khmer Rouge of backpacker David Wilson, after a top-secret file on the case was handed to the Coroners Court of Victoria, according to Australian media reports.

The Age newspaper reported on Sunday that the file, from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs, is believed to include details about negotiations conducted by Cambodian officials in a bid to secure Wilson’s release.

Wilson, 29, was kidnapped in July 1994 along with Briton Mark Slater and Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet in a Khmer Rouge attack on a train in which 13 Cambodians were killed. The three were slain at a remote camp in Kampot province in September after negotiations broke down.

According to the reports, the estimated 600 documents contained in the file may also raise questions about whether the government of Australian then-prime minister Paul Keating could have done more to prevent Wilson’s death.

In particular, The Age reported, Wilson’s family thinks the files could show the Australian government did nothing to dissuade Cambodian troops from shelling Phnom Voar, the Khmer Rouge stronghold where the hostages were being held, an act that is believed to have led directly to their killings.

It also refers to an aborted plan by Australian businessman Ron Walker to deliver a ransom payment of US$50,000 in gold ingots to the kidnappers. The plan was not revealed in the subsequent government inquest.

The news comes a week after a lawyer for Chhouk Rin, the Khmer Rouge commander serving a life sentence for the three killings, announced he would seek a Royal pardon on grounds of ill health. Two other lower-level Khmer Rouge figures – Nuon Paet and his now-deceased former provincial commander, Sam Bith – also received life sentences for the killings.

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