Three Cambodian NGO workers kidnapped last week by men believed to be Khmer Rouge guerrillas reappeared Monday in Sisophon unharmed although visibly shaken, officials said.
“Our people were released two hours ago,” said Neil Hawkins, country director for the Australia-based NGO, CARE, in a midday telephone interview from Sisophon.
However, details of the release were unclear. The two women and one man, found near the home of one of the victims, were disoriented and could tell little about their captivity.
“They were still very stressed and had been tied up for quite a while,” Hawkins said.
A medical team met with the released workers on Monday and a trauma team was scheduled to meet them as well, Hawkins said.
Efforts to free the trio, abducted last Monday in a remote part of the northwestern Banteay Meanchey province, culminated in contact between RCAF’s regional chief and the commander of Khmer Rouge guerrillas in the area.
Authorities said that the trio had been held some 50 km from Sisophon,
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Sisophon, where CARE has a provincial office. The three were abducted while driving back from a CARE rural clean water project in Phnom Srok district to headquarters in Sisophon.
The captors had set a ransom of 300,000 Thai baht ($8,500) and threatened to kill the abductees if the money was not paid, officials have said. Banteay Meanchey Governor Duong Khem said no ransom was paid.
Officials said that captors were under heavy pressure from local civilian and military officials to release the NGO workers.
“The abductors were very afraid,” Duong Khem said. “The only thing that the abductors asked the kidnapped [people] was not to have them arrested.”
The trio was released in Sisophon around 8 or 9 am, officials said, after being tied up for a week. CARE officials on Sunday had expressed growing concern over not knowing the exact whereabouts of the hostages.
“I was meeting the [first] deputy governor, Chhay Sareth…and the police commissioner walked in and said he heard they were in Sisophon,” Hawkins said.
However, the victims were visibly shaken and appeared as though they had unfinished business with the kidnappers, Hawkins said.
He speculated that they were released under conditions that a ransom be collected from the families.
“There may have been an understanding that they pay a certain amount,” Hawkins said.