Rumors of war filled the air several days before Dy, a military policeman, found himself running for his life on July 5.
“We were told to stay in our building 24-hours a day for several days before it happened,” said 29-year-old Dy, who declined to give his real name. “We knew then there was going to be a big fight between government troops.”
In the first days of July, Funcinpec troops camping nearby had been passing the small station—less than 2 km from Pochentong Airport—on their way to the market to buy beer. They always acted friendly, Dy recalled Thursday.
A few days later, however, they would come to kill him.
Based at the Military Police post in Dangkor district in western Phnom Penh, Dy was aligned with troops loyal to Second Prime Minister Hun Sen. Although Funcinpec troops were eventually routed, Dy’s small unit did not fare so well.
It was early Saturday when Dy and his comrades first heard sporadic gunfire in the distance. It continued, he said, and they feared the worst—that the rumors were coming true.
Then a B-40 rocket exploded nearby. The handful of military policemen quickly abandoned their small station.
“No one was able to fire a single bullet, they overran the place pretty fast,” Dy said.
One friend hid in a water tank atop an apartment building next door.
“They were looking all over to kill Hun Sen’s soldiers. They were shouting that the military police were lackies of the Vietnamese puppets,” he said.
After stripping off his uniform, Dy dumped his M-16 rifle, AK-54 pistol and walkie-talkie in a sewer and took off running to an army-operated dormitory for soldiers studying to be medics, located 1 km away. There he took refuge with a female student.
“When the anarchic forces knocked on her door, she told them I was her husband,” he said. Fortunately, they bought the lie, and went away. “She saved my life,” he said.
Dy stayed in the dormitory until July 9, when he cautiously made his way back to his parents’ home near Phsar Thmei. “They were really worried about me,” he said. “I hope I never have to go through that again.”