An inquest into the death of an Australian tourist who was taken hostage by the Khmer Rouge in 1994 and later killed is set to reopen later this year, according to Australian media reports.
David Wilson, 29, along with Briton Mark Slater and Frenchman Jean-Michel Braquet, was taken hostage on July 26, 1994 when the Khmer Rogue ambushed the train on which the three were traveling to Kampot town. More than 10 Cambodian were killed in the train hijacking.
During the subsequent months there were protracted negotiation with the Khmer Rouge forces holding the three men and ransom demands that started at $50,000 and later increased to $150,000.
Amid a government military onslaught that included shelling of the Phnom Voar Khmer Rouge base, where the hostages were being held, it was announced in November that year that the three had been executed by their captors.
According to an article published in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald, David Wilson’s case file compiled by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs was recently handed over to the coroner’s court after a 10-year-delay for cited reasons of national security.
The Wilson family expects that the inquest will reveal the Australian government knew of the government shelling of Phnom Voar and did not pressure Cambodia to hold the attack off.
Additionally, the Australian government refused to help the family deliver ransom money it had raised independently.
The families of the three men criticized the “no negotiations” stance of their embassies at the time, while then-First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh lambasted the foreign governments saying: “[The hostages] told us ‘Please, please, please, please pay the ransom.’ But then your governments said ‘No! No!'”
Questions to the Australian Embassy in Cambodia went unanswered yesterday, while a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra said they needed a day to prepare a response.
Peter Wilson, father of David, could not be reached for comment.
“I want the inquest to continue,” Mr Wilson was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday.
“There is not a day that goes by that I have not reviewed the situation before I got to sleep at night. We’ve been kept in the dark too long,” he said.
Both Chhum Sucheat, spokesman for the Ministry of Defense, and Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said yesterday that they didn’t know about the Wilson case.
RCAF General Chea Dara, the chief negotiator during the 1994 hostage crisis, declined to comment.
Following the execution of the hostages, analysts placed a portion of the blame on the government shelling. The hostages had also pleaded for the artillery barrages to cease, according to two-way radio messages out of Phnom Voar.
“It is as if they are bombing to kill us. I don’t think the Cambodian government wants us out of here, to tell you the truth,” British hostage Mark Slater said at the time. (Additional reporting by Phann Ana)