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Renewed calls for a Senate inquiry into the death in Cambodia of David Wilson

TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Opposition has renewed its calls for a Senate inquiry into the death in Cambodia last year of Australian, David Wilson, after allegations that the Cambodian Government may have sacrificed Mr Wilson and two other hostages for political reasons.

Former Cambodian Finance Minister, Sam Rainsy says he collected a $200,000 ransom for the release of David Wilson and the other hostages, but it was not paid to the Khmer Rouge. Mr Rainsy alleges the Cambodian Government wanted the Khmer Rouge to kill the hostages so it could gain international support for more military aid.

Coalition Senator Bob Woods, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee, told David Burgess he's not surprised by the allegations.

BOB WOODS: Essentially, we'd had the same sort of information, without giving the details that a ransom had been arranged and not paid over. The other allegation, which I think is very crucial, is that the motivation of the Cambodian Government at best was to try to destroy the Khmer Rouge, and if other people, including David Wilson, got in the way, then that was tough; or at worst, they were prepared to use David and the others as pawns, and if need be sacrifice them.

DAVID BURGESS: Well, at the time, the Australian Government was speaking out very strongly against the paying of a ransom. What do you actually know about the collection of a ransom at the time?

BOB WOODS: Well, we would agree that in general once you start paying one ransom, you just open up the whole bag of worms and other hostages will be taken and ransoms demanded. So, in principle, I would agree that you shouldn't pay a ransom, but as we understand it, a ransom was arranged and according to the information today, it did get further than we thought. It got to the point of being paid to the military commanders. Certainly the military locally did not seem to respond to the Australian Government's view, whereas a few weeks before or a few months before the American hostage had been in a similar situation. The American Ambassador in Cambodia had intervened to stop the bombing and the shelling and the artillery fire, which was threatening her life. Our Ambassador did not intervene to stop the bombing of the same area.

One of the questions we want to raise in the committee when we get round to it is why was our Ambassador impotent and the American Ambassador was able to stop the shelling.

DAVID BURGESS: Well, these allegations are actually being raised by a former finance minister in the Cambodian Government, but he actually admits that he has no proof about his allegations, especially that the hostages may have been sacrificed for political reasons. Why should he actually be given any credibility in this?

BOB WOODS: Well, certainly he was closer to the action, if you like, than most of the other people who have given evidence so far, but the sources that we have indicate that this fits in with what we've been told. Now, at this stage, again, we don't have any proof, but there's so many unanswered questions that that's the reason for having the Senate inquiry into the whole David Wilson affair. You know, why was the Cambodian Government the main negotiator when their motivations were not to save David, but to get rid of the Khmer Rouge.

DAVID BURGESS: We don't know that for certain, though, do we?

BOB WOODS: Well, we know their motivations were basically to get rid of the Khmer Rouge. I don't think there's much doubt about that. We also want to know why the third party negotiator option was not taken up when it had worked previously for the American hostage? Why were communications not maintained? Why was the shelling not stopped? There's just so many unanswered questions about this.

TONY EASTLEY: Senator Bob Woods.