A N NGO has offered to provide water well drilling equipment and training to the
Khmer Rouge in exchange for the release of four staff, including a US woman, who
were taken hostage.
Robin Shell, director of Food for the Hungry
International, said: "We are negotiating with the KR using the normal
development approach, providing them with equipment and training so that they
can dig water wells themselves."
Shell said originally nine Cambodians
were kidnapped on March 31 by the KR, 20 km south of Kampot's district town of
"Five captives were released two hours later to take back the
message that the KR wanted an expatriate to come and negotiate about wells."
Melissa Himes, a 24-year-old American relief official with FHI, went
that afternoon to negotiate the release of the rest of the captives when she was
herself taken hostage by the KR.
Shell said: "We have sought advice from
Crisis Consultants, a US company specializing in the release of kidnap victims,
we've decided to adopt a low-key approach which we believe is the best way to
solve the problem.
"Negotiations have been conducted through village
messengers. The KR did not ask for money, but they requested we provide them
with three wells.
"We offered instead to give them equipment and
training, now we are waiting for their response, we would like to help them with
wells as much as anybody else."
He added: "I feel confident but
concerned, we want our staff to come back. Two letters sent so far from Melissa
say she and her colleagues have been well-treated."
The KR carried out a
number of kidnappings of foreigners last year during the election process. All
the hostages were released unharmed.
Sources speculate that their well
digging activity may have been tapping into the KR's already limited water
supplies in the region.