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.
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!