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Freed American Aid Worker Says She was Treated Well by Captors

May 12, 1994

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) _ An American aid worker said today that the Khmer Rouge guerrillas who held her captive delivered hundreds of cards from well-wishers.

Fighting boredom was the worst part of the six-week ordeal for Melissa Himes, 24, of Winston-Salem, N.C., and two Cambodian colleagues who were released Wednesday in exchange for humanitarian aid from Food for the Hungry International, the agency they work for.

Speaking at a news conference, Himes said the most frightening moment came late in their captivity, when a guerrilla they befriended ″came into the house extremely frightened and said they were going to kill us in a couple of days and he wanted to help us escape.″

Himes said the threat followed the movement of government troops in the area, but disappeared when they moved on.

″I had orders to stay put and things were going to work out and they did,″ she said. ″I never made any attempt to escape. I thought about it a lot, it was unwise.″

Himes and her Cambodian colleagues were seized when they went to retrieve one of the aid group’s vehicles in Kampot, 60 miles southwest of Phnom Penh. There had been a dispute about where the aid group would dig wells in the area, which is partially controlled by Khmer Rouge fighters.

″There were occasions during the last six weeks when we felt threatened, but for the most part we were okay,″ she said. ″I was not physically harmed or deprived of basic needs.″

She said she was allowed to send and receive messages, including hundreds of cards from well-wishers.

She and her colleagues spent their second and third weeks in captivity drilling a well, but later had little to do, so she spent her time reading, listening to the radio, sleeping and eating.

″It was extremely boring,″ she said.

Her captors had made various ransom demands, ranging from $2,000 to $1 million, and asked for two thermometers and a logging truck, but they eventually settled for three tons of rice, 100 bags of cement, 100 sheets of aluminum roofing, medicine and 1,500 cans of fish.

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