A former Khmer Rouge field commander, convicted in absentia over the murder of three tourists in 1994, has been apprehended in north-western Cambodia, the government said today.
Authorities seized Chhouk Rin yesterday in a village where he had fled after losing his appeal in February, said Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak.
He said the arrest “should help bring closure” to the case of the murdered tourists Mark Slater from the UK, David Wilson from Australia and Jean-Michel Braquet from France.
Former Khmer Rouge guerrillas from Chhouk Rin’s unit abducted the travellers after ambushing their train at Phnom Voar, or Vine Mountain, in south-western Cambodia in 1994. They killed the captives following failed ransom negotiations.
In 2003, Chhouk Rin was convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison on five charges including terrorism, premeditated murder and robbery resulting from the attack, which also killed and wounded many Cambodians.
Chhouk Rin, who has maintained his innocence, disappeared from his home in Phnom Voar just after Cambodia’s Supreme Court in February rejected his appeal of the lower court’s sentence.
In Australia, Wilson’s father, Peter Wilson, said Cambodian officials had taken a good first step in apprehending Chhouk Rin.
“If they do their part and put him behind bars, this is a signal that at last the government there is recognising that this has just got to be done,” he said.
“He planned everything, but it seemed he was being protected by the authorities and was able to get around Cambodia in hiding. This might be a signal of a shift in the government’s policy.”
In Cambodia, British Ambassador David Reader also applauded Chhouk Rin’s arrest.
“It’s something the British government has been requesting for some time,” Reader said. “We certainly welcome the final arrest of Chhouk Rin. It’s better late than never.”
Khieu Sopheak denied that Chhouk Rin’s capture was the result of pressure from French President Jacques Chirac, who prodded the Cambodian government to apprehend the fugitive during a meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in Paris last month.
“We have been trying to carry out the arrest warrant against him all along. But we were just unable to locate him,” he said.
Chhouk Rin will begin serving his sentence at Prey Sar prison near Phnom Penh, the capital, authorities said.