Gunshots heard near Lenin boulevard on the night of Friday 13th August sparked instant
rumors of assassination and prison escape. A local student, Ran Phoumin, was standing
by the gate of the Renakse hotel when two bursts of automatic rifle fire, totaling
over twenty rounds, occurred shortly after 10 p.m. "I remember the last time
assassins tried to enter the palace" he said grimly "the guards managed
to capture some of them...they (the intruders) wore masks."
A guard at the northwest corner of the Royal Palace was quick to deny there had been
another such incident. He believed inmates of T3, a nearby prison, had attempted
to escape and had been fired upon.
However, food vendors opposite the prison said the shots came from further along
the road, towards the National Museum; one man thought there had been a shoot-out
involving police and an armed robber.
From a doorway near the intersection with Street 19, Madame Sok Oth, 54, explained
that the gunshots had come from right across the road: "There was an argument
between a cyclo driver and a man. The man told the driver to take him somewhere,
but it was late so he refused. The man was very annoyed and fired his gun at the
ground. After that he stopped another man with a "Moto" and did the same
thing when he wouldn't go either."
The accosted motorcyclist, Chem Chou Vanarak, 31, a shop-owner and former policeman,
commented, "he was drunk and had an AK47. When I didn't want to take him he
fired it near my feet-very close. I thought he was going to shoot me. He ran away
when I went to get a policeman."
Surrounding shop-workers speculated that the armed man (who was about forty and dressed
in civilian clothes) may well have been an off-duty policeman or soldier. he field
in the direction of Wat Ounalom, along Street 13.