Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Cambodia: former Finance Minister claims the Government tacitly approved the kidnap and murder of three Western hostages

ELLEN FANNING: There are claims, this morning, that the Cambodian Government conspired with Khmer Rouge guerillas to allow the kidnap of three Western hostages and later let them die to boost Phnom Penh's call for more military aid. These shocking allegations have been made by a former Cambodian Finance Minister, Sam Rainsy, and they come just before the re-opening of a Senate inquiry and inquest into the death of Australian, David Wilson, who was kidnapped, with two other foreigners, in the middle of 1994. Evan Williams reports.

EVAN WILLIAMS: There have always been serious doubts about the Cambodian Government's handling of the hostage crisis, most of it blamed on incompetence or tragic disregard for their lives. But Finance Minister at the time, Sam Rainsy, has now added a shocking new dimension.

SAM RAINSY: I believe that they... an agreement between the various groups involved and it decided not to spare the lives of the hostages.

EVAN WILLIAMS: Mr Rainsy claims the Government had an understanding with some of the guerillas, who later defected, that the hostages would not live.

SAM RAINSY: What I mean is that they completed it between the Government and between some elements of the Khmer Rouge who had a tragic issue to ....

EVAN WILLIAMS: He says the Khmer Rouge officer who took them from the train, Commander Chuk Rin (?), was in fact already a government agent waiting to defect, and high-ranking government officials appear to have allowed the kidnapping.

SAM RAINSY: When Rin and his group attacked the train, government soldiers were a few hundred metres from the place of the attack, and they did not intervene. There is an understanding and an agreement for government soldiers not to intervene.

EVAN WILLIAMS: Rainsy says the Government's motive for either planning the kidnapping or letting it go wrong was to attract more foreign aid by helping the Khmer Rouge look bad.

SAM RAINSY: It is in line with what the Government would want to achieve.

EVAN WILLIAMS: And what was that?

SAM RAINSY: To inject more support from donor countries, especially military support, and to justify a war, a very costly war, against the Khmer Rouge.

EVAN WILLIAMS: Sacked soon after the crisis for criticising widespread corruption, Rainsy has at times been dismissed by both Canberra and Cambodia as a bitter man. Cambodian Information Minister, Ieng Mouly, denies knowledge of any deal, saying the Khmer Rouge looked bad enough already. But throwing new light on the Government's handling of the crisis, he now admits the Government launched a full-scale offensive as it assumed the hostages would die anyway.

IENG MOULY: They killed a million other people, so why they cannot kill just those three people ... because they want to make publicity for the action, so this is the reason why they kill ....

EVAN WILLIAMS: Did the Government assume that the three would be killed and that's why they continued with the military operation?

IENG MOULY: I believe that the Government believed that, anyway, they will kill the three people, that is why the Government had to capture ....

EVAN WILLIAMS: That contravened Cambodia's guarantee to the Australian Government that it would not take any action that would endanger the hostages. Rainsy says the Government's objective quickly became the use of force to clear the area of Khmer Rouge regardless of the danger to the hostages' lives. Independent investigators and foreign police agree.

Evan Williams, A.M.. Bangkok.