An NGO worker who was taken hostage in north-east Cambodia in late August spent two
days wandering nearly naked in thick forest before being rescued by police.
Armed kidnappers demanded $5,000 ransom for two employees of a local NGO, the Cambodia
Family Development Service (CFDS) which operates in Mondolkiri. They threatened to
kill Touch Sina unless his colleague Lon Bondaul returned in four hours with the
cash and left it on a motorbike in the forest.
John Phay, CFDS country director, said that by the time Bondaul returned with 1.7
million riel (around $425), Touch Sina, who was left wearing only his underpants,
had already disappeared into the forest.
"[Bondaul] left the money on top of the motorcycle and when he had gone 100
meters he turned around and it was gone," Phay said. "We haven't got the
Phay said the incident was a one-off robbery, a case of mistaken identity that was
not directed at his organization. "They were in the wrong place at the wrong
time and there was some guy who probably wanted to rob someone else like a businessman,"
However international NGO Oxfam, which funds the local NGO, said the kidnapping was
a deliberate attack.
"I think it may be the case that the NGO was targeted because people sometimes
mistakenly feel that NGOs are cash rich when in fact that is rarely the case,"
said Mike Ounsted, an Oxfam director.
He added that Oxfam particularly wanted to help disadvantaged people in remote areas,
and warned kidnappers to think about the consequences of their actions.
"I would also hope that would-be hijackers think very carefully about donors
and the work our partners are doing," he said. "This could have a negative
effect on the ability of partners to deliver aid relief."
Ounsted said that although the kidnapping was unusual, he thought it might have happened
to other Oxfam partners before.
"I think it is important for both donors and NGOs to look at how they are perceived,"
he said. "We are concerned about the safety of our partners especially coming
up to the general elections next year. We hope they will look at their security arrangements
and we will also look at ours."
One of the suspects was captured by Mondolkiri police on August 22, and two others
were arrested in Kampong Cham province on September 3.
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