Staying Safe in Cambodia: Advice from the Expats

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To the profound sadness of many expatriates such a rare incident took place last week when a much liked foreign resident was murdered in his own apartment during what seems to be a botched robbery.

Following this tragedy, expatriate residents of Phnom Penh pooled and shared their safety tips and ideas on the Khmer 440 forum. These suggestions, geared mainly for foreign residents but also useful for travellers, have been collated and can be found below.

Ensure that the perimeter of your house is secure. Don’t choose to live in a house that gives people the opportunity to get near your windows or doors. Fences should be tall and have broken glass and razor wire. Also your more accessible areas should have night lights.

If you share a balcony with others, have razor wire separating your two houses. Often thieves gain access from other peoples’ houses and climb over their balcony to yours.

If you have a small motorbike, or use motorbike taxis, don’t drive around very late at night. Believe it or not, you may well be the target of yamma-head gangs who specialise in tactics of surrounding smaller bikes and holding them up with guns.

If you drive a large motorbike at night always be aware of bikes that are driving close to you. Keep a safe distance.

When leaving clubs, bars or bank teller machines, watch for bikes that are following you. If you are being followed, firstly don’t let them near you, secondly take a circuitous route home, so they don’t find out where you live.

Never carry bags in your bike basket. Don?t carry bags with one strap over your shoulder. A thief doesn?t care if you hit the ground when he snatches the bag, he only cares that he gets the bag.

Never carry around large amounts of money.

Always have all doors, balconies and windows locked at night, even if you are home. Have bars on all windows.

If you have windows opened, even if barred; make sure that nothing can be dragged through the window with a long stick.

Never ever resist; people have got away with it, but that is just luck. Cambodians (let me specify Cambodian robbers so as not to offend) will use a gun/knife without the slightest hesitation.

Always expect to be robbed because at one stage, you’re probably going to be. It sounds cynical but unfortunately it’s true.

Never carry important documents, credit cards and passports around unnecessarily.

Learn the Cambodian word for thief – “jao” (kind of rhymes with now but with a “j”). Use it wisely though. We all know about justice Khmer style.

Look behind you on the roads occasionally, make sure you”re not being followed especially after going to the bank etc.

Talk to the locals, they know far more about the subject than we do, they can have good advice to give.

Women, be very careful with your handbags on motorbikes, never wear them across your shoulder, nearly every expat female I know has been a victim of handbag snatches whilst riding pillion.

Be aware of pick-pockets in crowded areas such as markets.

Maintain a heightened level of awareness prior to Khmer holidays and festivals; this is when the crime rate increases as Khmer people need money.

When you come home late, do not linger around your gate/door searching for your keys, unlocking the gate, dragging it open, etc. It’s the ideal place to be caught and robbed. If possible, call ahead and have somebody there to open the gate for you as you arrive.

And just to emphasize what others have already said: Always be aware of your surroundings. If you are riding, look back on occasion, especially before you turn down a dark street or stopping in front of your house. Also, riding a big motorbike does give you an advantage. Even better, drive a car, which isn’t as fun or as cool as a moto, and it”s a little more expensive, but you rarely if ever hear of somebody getting robbed in their car.

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