A small band of Khmer Rouge guerrillas abducted 40 villagers in Oddar Meanchey province last week, but released them after receiving more than $2,000 in ransom, authorities confirmed Wednesday.
The abduction took place at 2 pm on Dec 1 near Krasaing village, Chong Kal district, about 70 km northwest of Siem Reap town, said Soam Nody, the Siem Reap provincial police chief who is responsible for security in parts of Oddar Meanchey.
About 15 to 20 soldiers wearing Khmer Rouge uniforms surrounded the 40 villagers as they harvested rice in remote fields and tended grazing cattle in the jungle, Soam Nody said.
The rebels demanded 2,000 baht (or about $55) for each of the captives. Two of the captives were sent to collect money from friends and relatives, and the villagers were freed the following day, the police chief said.
“I am happy that the kidnapped villagers were released unharmed,” Soam Nody said.
He said villagers identified their abductors as members of Khmer Rouge division 519. The division commander, Dul Saroeun, was one of eight remaining rebel commanders who defected Friday—three days after the abduction.
Soam Nody said the rebel group has kidnapped villagers from Chong Kal and Siem Reap’s Srei Snam districts twice before. The rebels were among the last remaining Khmer Rouge groups in neighboring Banteay Meanchey province’s Phnom Srok district, which borders Chong Kal.
“These rebel groups just kidnap farmers for money to support themselves because they don’t have any food,” Soam Nody said.
He said authorities would take more action to protect residents from the rebels.
Banteay Meanchey Governor Duong Khem on Wednesday suggested the rebels included soldiers loyal to Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh. Dul Saroeun’s troops helped those forces defend O’Smach earlier this year.