Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Police say they told foreigners to stop

Police say they told foreigners to stop

Police say they told foreigners to stop

A policeman maintains he told two Bulgarians and a Briton to "stop, stop...there

is fighting" before they rode down Sihanouk Blvd.

In a version of events

expected to be mirrored in the official police report on the shooting,

Lieutenant Chea Chanty said he went out of his way to warn the trio. "If they

had listened to me, they would have been safe," said Chanty, of the Chatomuk

police station at the eastern end of Sihanouk Blvd.

He said on the night

of Aug 26 there was much shooting, with "maybe 100" soldiers on the

street.

Scared, he and his men hid in the police station. But around 1am,

he said he saw three foreigners on a motorcycle go slowly past the police

station.

He said he ran outside and shouted at them to "stop, stop"

because "there is fighting" down the street. He said the motorcycle went a short

way down the road, turned back briefly, then again turned and continued down the

road. Soldiers opened fire.

Chanty's report was filed at the Khan Daun

Penh police station, where Inspector Pol Phithey and Deputy Inspector Uch Thorn

were preparing a report expected eventually to go the Bulgarian and British

Embassies.

Phithey, who said the soldiers who fired the shots hadn't been

interviewed, maintained that warning shots in the air were fired.

He said

the shooting followed two instances of Khmers on Rebel motorcycles - the same

model the foreigners were riding - firing guns at nearby government

residences.

Phithey told what he believed happened:

"On Saturday,

Aug 26 around 10pm, a [passenger on a] Honda Rebel motorbike shot a pistol many

times around the area of Hun Sen's house. There were two people on the bike. At

that time the situation remained calm.

"After midnight a Rebel motorbike

drove near [an alleyway off Sihanouk Blvd leading to National Assembly chairman]

Chea Sim's house and shot a pistol. I don't know if it hit the house. At that

time Chea Sim's bodyguards came out and fired many times, shooting in the air

and at the fleeing motorbike... hundreds of shots.

"Then we had another

Rebel, arrived immediately after... minutes later. That was the foreigners'. One

of our policemen [Chanty] shouted for them to stop. They started off about eight

meters down the road, turned back, then turned again and drove straight down the

road.

"When they arrived at the point where [Chea Sim's] bodyguards were,

the shooting happened again.

"At the first point the bodyguards shot into

the air... then when they got to the other point [Hun Sen's guards] did not know

whose moto it was, it was going fast... [they] shot into

them.

"Immediately the bodyguards arranged to take them to hospital. The

three foreigners were also drunk. I did not know anything about them being

robbed."

"We are very sorry [the shooting] happened, but they should have

listened to us."

Guards outside Chea Sim's residence, however, denied

they were involved in any shooting. They said troops on the road that night had

been from Hun Sen's house.

The guards said they had heard shooting, but

did not venture out or join in. "Samdech [Chea Sim] was not even here that

night, he does not sleep here," one said.

At Calmette Hospital, Ivanov

and James, who were on the motorcycle, reacted angrily to Phithey's version of

events.

"Tell him to bring in his report here, and I'll rip in up in his

face," said James. We were halfway down the road, still being shot at, before I

heard anyone yell stop. These were tracers [bullets]...you can see what a tracer

is aimed at, and these were aimed at us. There were bullets

everywhere."

Ivanov said: "You think if someone says to us 'stop, stop'

and they start shooting in the air, I won't stop? The first bullets that I saw

came straight for us. That's why I didn't stop - I didn't know who they were

from."

Both men also disputed being drunk. James said he hadn't drunk

alcohol since February, on medical advice. Ivanov said the police could possibly

explain the shooting as an isolated, unfortunate error if there had only been

one incident. But the shooting at Australian Iain Howatson around the same time

made the events harder to explain rationally.

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