Robbery Season in Cambodia

Expats in Cambodia joke that there are a few weeks every year that are “robbery season,” traditionally, the few weeks before both Khmer New Year and Water Festival. These holidays, which require (often very poor) Cambodians to spend more money than they have, are the catalyst for a rash of crimes.

On the back of a moto, but next time wear a helmet!

Be careful with your bag when on the back of a moto, especially during robbery season.

The most common type of robbery is a snatch-and-grab attack, where a man on a moto (either driver or passenger) grabs a phone, purse, bag, or camera out of your hands as he drives past. Foreigners in tuk tuks, on motos, and on foot have been targeted. When you’re out and about, be very careful about using your phone, especially if it’s an expensive model. Make sure you’re paying attention to your surroundings and keep a firm grip on your possessions. When in a tuk tuk, hold your bag firmly to your chest or, even better, sit on it or keep it under your feet. When on a moto, keep your bag up front with the driver. If someone grabs it and you are holding onto it, you may fall off your moto.

Be realistic and don’t carry things you really can’t afford to lose. If you can help it, try not to commute with your laptop. Don’t play with an iPad in the back of a tuk tuk. When you are taking photos, try and stay a few feet back from the road and keep the strap around your wrist. If you need to carry your passport, make a copy and carry that instead.

During “robbery season” it’s best for women not to carry a purse or walk around late at night. Purses draw thieves like flies to honey, and it’s safer not to carry one. It’s also safer to take a car taxi after dark, particularly during those weeks. In general, walking around late at night is not a great idea for women, who tend to be especially targeted for robberies.

The easiest way to prevent these kind of robberies is to be aware. If you notice a moto driving in your tuk tuk’s blind spot, look directly at them. Thieves prey on inattentive expats, so staying alert can spare you becoming the victim of this type of crime.

Generally Cambodia is a very safe place, but in several recent instances robberies have turned violent. The best course of action is not to fight or resist, it’s not worth getting hurt to save your wallet. Make sure you have travel insurance and don’t carry expensive possessions with you, especially during robbery. Stay safe and happy Pchum Ben!

4 Responses to Robbery Season in Cambodia

  1. Deborah Trussler says:

    You forgot to mention necklaces….smash and grab works for those as well and you end up with lots of scratches! My advice…no necklaces at all!

  2. Bubastis says:

    Thieves have tried to snatch my phone while I was sitting in the back of a tuk-tuk and inattentively staring at the screen and messing with it, full on zombie smartphone trance. They failed. Because I have a chain wallet for my phone that I rigged up and it just snaps back to me even if they manage to get their hands on it. The chain is pretty small and lightweight, so they don’t notice it attached to the phone case or my belt.

    Here’s how they do it: Generally two guys will speed up to the tuk-tuk and pull parallel but just behind the tuk-tuk, where a car’s blind spot would be. Then the one on the back stands up as their moto speeds forward and he lunges for it from his higher vantage point. He has one shot to grab it and he won’t have leverage or anything compared to you seated, so it’s pretty easy to hold onto it if you notice them coming. If you sit in the middle of the tuk-tuk seat – with maximum space on your sides, they probably can’t do it, but they might still try. Also, the drivers have zip up curtains usually used for bad weather, you can have those put up if you feel like playing Angry Birds in relative safety.

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