Its that time of year again in Cambodia – the Phcum Ben 15 day religious festival has commenced, culminating in celebrations on the 15th day of the tenth month in the Khmer calendar, at the end of the Buddhist lent.
Its a time when most Cambodians return to their homeland to be with family to remember past ancestors. Unfortunately it is also a time when road accidents increase due to more alcohol use and crime rates increase, with opportunistic theft and robberies by thieves who prey on soft targets, conducting bag snatches, pickpocketing, drive by thefts and robberies with the majority of crimes normally being non-violent.
What is alarming is that this year has seen a spike in criminal offences targeting both Khmers and Westerners as thieves become more brazen. The Cambodia National Police recently unveiled plans to crack down on robberies and bag snatching as bag snatching has continued to plague the city. Read More
Even though Cambodia is an amazing place to live and visit, and generally is a very safe place, we must remain extra vigilant during holiday periods. Here are my tips to staying safe and minimising your risk of becoming a victim this holiday period.
At all times be vigilant and remain aware of your surroundings – In many cases thieves will follow or surveil their target before committing their crime. Thieves prey on targets who they think are not paying attention to their surroundings and in nearly all cases, a victim has no idea that a crime is occurring until its too late.
Don’t carry handbags or large bags – there is no need to carry handbags or large bags containing valuables and personal belongings in Cambodia. However if you do need to carry a handbag or backpack, make sure it has secured pockets to avoid pickpocketing and have the bag securely strapped across your shoulders or on your back to minimise the risk of snatching.
Reduce the number & visibility of valuables you carry. Don’t carry large amounts of cash with you; don’t carry credit cards and other important cards; don’t wear expensive jewellery and avoid carrying any valuables that aren’t required during the day. If you have to carry valuables, don’t wave cash around for everyone to see; keep your phone in your pocket unless you have to use it, and securely fasten cameras to your body.
Avoid travelling alone at night time and avoid walking in streets alone and with minimal lighting – thieves will always look for soft targets in areas that have no people and are dark with minimal lighting.
Don’t get too drunk – we all love a drink and like to enjoy the festive times but we do become less vigilant when we are drunk; thieves will target people who appear to be affected by alcohol.
Try to use motodops and tuk tuks who you know or are known to venues you attend – there have been many cases where tuk tuk drivers or motodop drivers have acted in conjunction with thieves, either pre-planning to take unsuspecting victims into unfamiliar areas where thieves are waiting or assisting in the theft themselves.
Don’t drive a car or ride a motorbike – you can guarantee people will drive or ride whilst drunk and there will be accidents resulting in serious injury and death. Don’t drive a car or ride a motorbike if you are affected by alcohol; there is an accident waiting to happen.
Following the above tips will reduce your risk, but at the end of the day it is common sense that will ultimately reduce your chances of becoming a victim.
Be vigilant, be smart and enjoy your holidays!