The country's top leader, Hun Sen, announced details of the arrest of Nuon Paet yesterday after giving a briefing on the matter to the ambassadors of Australia, Britain and France, the homelands of the victims.
Nuon Paet headed a band of Khmer Rouge guerrillas who halted a train going south from the capital in 1994 and abducted three Western backpackers: David Wilson, 29, from Australia; Briton Mark Slater, 28; and Jean-Michel Braquet, 27, from France.
The guerrillas, holed up on rugged Vine Mountain in the southern province of Kampot, held three months of protracted negotiations with the government, during which they demanded a ransom for the hostages' release.
The negotiations apparently continued even after the men had been executed, unbeknown to the government.
At least 10 foreigners were taken hostage and subsequently killed by Khmer Rouge guerrillas in 1994 or after. Only one, American Melissa Himes, escaped unharmed.
"This is a success for our national police," Hun Sen told reporters at his residence just outside the capital. He said he asked the ambassadors to send lawyers to the planned trial on behalf of the victims.
Hun Sen's account of Nuon Paet's arrest indicated that the authorities had lured the former guerrilla to the capital on the pretence of a business deal.
Hun Sen said Nuon Paet had most recently been in the western province of Pailin on the Thai border, a former guerrilla stronghold which is now ruled semi-autonomously by high-ranking Khmer Rouge defectors who came over to the government in 1996. - AP