B ULGARIAN Dimitir (Mitko) Ivanov lay on Sihanouk Blvd thinking "I haven't been
shot", till he put a hand to his neck and felt bullet holes.
three times - though he hadn't felt the impact of any of them - said more
bullets were sprayed around him as he lay wounded.
He and his two friends
said they were later relieved of wallets, mobile telephones and jewelry by
soldiers who had shot at them.
The three men were on Ivanov's Honda Rebel
motorcycle when it was shot off the road on the night of Saturday, Aug
Ivanov 18, was shot in the back, shoulder and neck, while Briton
Gregory James, 29, had his right forearm smashed by a bullet. Braiko Zahov, 17,
a friend of Ivanov's from Bulgaria, suffered serious head injuries in the
Ivanov and James, speaking from their Calmette Hospital
beds, recalled how their Saturday night turned ugly after they left the Bouddha
Bar, under the Foreign Correspondents Club, about 12.30am.
get his bike to start, and there were no motos," said Ivanov. "We were the last
customers, so I said I'd give him a ride home."
The pair, along with
Zahov, rode off down Sothearos Blvd past the Royal Palace on Ivanov's Honda
As they passed the Khmer Vietnamese Monument, nearing
the intersection with Sihanouk Blvd, the trio saw the flashes of tracer bullets
apparently aimed in their direction. They pulled into a side street.
stopped and smoke cigarettes until the shooting stopped, for about five
minutes," Ivanov said. "Then we started the bike and went off.
right [into Sihanouk Blvd]. I thought it was all quiet. Then they started
"There was shooting, shooting, shooting. We didn't know whether
they were police or gangsters. I really thought they were going to hit us. The
bullets were straight in front of my bike, right in front. First, they came from
the right side, near the Khmer Vietnamese Monument, then they came from
"We thought we were caught in a firefight. The bullets were
all tracers; it was like a fireworks show all around the bike.
'If we stop, they're going to shoot me'. Greg was telling me to go for it, after
the first shots, so I went fast. But we had a small army waiting for
James recalled tugging his mobile telephone from his pocket, vainly
trying to telephone someone for help as bullets whipped past, before one hit him
in his other arm.
Both men are adamant there was no roadblock on Sihanouk
Blvd. James said that as the bike entered the street, he saw armed men seemingly
appear out of nowhere in the park where the Khmer Vietnamese Monument
The first and only time he heard someone shout "stop" was after they
had opened fire, he said.
The motorbike made it several hundred meters
down the street. It grew "very heavy", Ivanov recalled - police later said there
were four to five bullets through its engine, petrol tank and front wheel -
before spinning out of control.
The trio crashed somewhere between the
North Korean Embassy, a few doors up from Second Prime Minister Hun Sen's
residence, and the Independence Monument.
"They were still shooting with
AKs when we were on the ground," said Ivanov. "I think I got my last shot
there, but I don't know for sure.
"There were some military police, some
soldiers and some police. I saw this policeman pull out a pistol, a Makarov, and
come toward me. He was saying something in an angry way. My ears were stuffed
up, I couldn't hear. This guy kept coming at me, shooting all around me, five or
"I raised one leg and my hand. I was screaming in Khmer. I
said we were foreigners, I was from Bulgaria, and we don't carry guns... that we
are foreigners, stop shooting."
After having a circle of pistols shots
sprayed around him, the shooting stopped. Ivanov felt his body, looking for
"I said to myself 'I haven't been shot yet'. Then I touch my
neck, and felt a few holes. Then I see the blood. At the same time I hear Greg
say 'F**k, I've been shot'."
James recalled Ivanov, touching his neck
with his hands, saying: "I've got a hole here, man, and I've got a hole
James lay nursing his shot arm when a soldier began frisking
"I'm there on the ground, and this guy points his AK47 at me, rips
my phone from me and thrusts it in his belt. He took my spectacles
Zahov, meanwhile, lay silent, having smashed his head on the ground
in the crash.
Ivanov said the three were loaded on to a military truck by
soldiers and police - "they didn't say anything, they just held us like pigs" -
and driven to Calmette.
Ivanov doesn't recall being robbed but by the
time they had got to hospital, he had lost his wallet and mobile telephone. A
bracelet had been taken off Zahov's wrist while he lay
James said: "They were searching us while they were
bringing us here in the wagon. They were going through our pockets. That's what
really gets to me. After they shoot us, see that we're foreigners and they've
made a mistake, they rob us."
At the hospital, Ivanov told the staff to
contact the Bulgarian Embassy - where his father is an attaché - and thought he
was going to die. "I was lying here and saying to Greg 'Greg, I'm dying, man'.
He was saying 'Hold on, Mitko, you're not going to die'."
and James are amazed that neither of them died, but are waiting to see whether
they will suffer permanent damage. Ivanov is unclear on the path of bullets
through his body - "I don't know, I can't work out the shots" - but his doctors
say he took three bullets. One apparently went through his shoulder, into his
neck and out his jaw.
James, a computer trainer, has begun painful
physiotherapy on his right arm. Zahov, who though not shot was the most badly
injured, has been flown home to Bulgaria. Ivanov said Zahov's doctors feared
that his internal head injuries could claim his life or at least leave him with
permanent brain damage.