The sad saga of two Belgian tourists who visited Khmer Rouge-controlled Preah Vihear Temple in 1994 and were never seen alive again came to a formal close last week when remains of one of the two victims were finally handed over to his family.
The family of Michel Baran, 31 at the time of his death, accepted his remains at a ceremony Tuesday at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, a Belgian consular officer confirmed Thursday.
The ceremony also recognized Nathalie Roobaert, whose remains had been recovered last year and returned to her relatives.
Baran and Roobaert went missing on May 25, 1994, after they apparently crossed the Cambodian-Thai border to visit Preah Vihear Temple, according to officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
RCAF general Chea Saran, who helped lead an unsuccessful search for the tourists in 1994, said he did not know whether the two were killed by Khmer Rouge or by a landmine. “The two victims were reportedly sneaking illegally into Cambodian territory controlled by the Khmer Rouge,” Chea Saran said.
Baran’s remains were not found until earlier this year, when a market seller in the former guerrilla stronghold of Anlong Veng reportedly offered to sell them for thousands of dollars. Neither the Belgian Embassy nor Baran’s family nor the Cambodia government agreed to pay.
“The government was not willing to pay for the remains, because that would encourage people to kidnap foreigners,” Chea Saran said.
Khmer Rouge soldiers at Preah Vihear Temple defected to the government last year. In addition to the two Belgians, six other westerners were kidnapped and killed in 1994 in Cambodia, causing successive public relations disasters for the government.