Its an exciting and happy time in Cambodia this time of year with the Phcum Ben festival period commencing – a 15-day Cambodian religious festival, culminating in celebrations on the 15th day of the tenth month in the Khmer calendar, at the end of the Buddhist lent.
Unfortunately it is also a time when crime rates increase, with opportunistic theft and robberies increasing across the country. Thieves prey on soft targets, conducting bag snatches, pickpocketing, drive by thefts and robberies with the majority of crimes being non-violent.
What is alarming is that this year has already seen a spike in criminal offences targeting both Khmers and Westerners, and violent crimes have also increased as thieves become more brazen. A recent speech given by the Cambodian Prime Minister who highlighted that a large number of prisoners had been released from prison prior to the holidays, and were re-offending as soon as they were released, often increasing the level of violence during their crimes.
Here are my tips to minimising your risk to becoming a target of opportunistic theft or robbery.
- 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.
- Dont 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 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.
- Reduce visibility of your 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 with minimal lighting; thieves will always look for soft targets in areas that have no people and are dark.
- Dont get to drunk – we all love a drink and like to enjoy the festive times but we do become less vigilant when we are drunk. Thieves pay particular attention to people who appear 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.
Be vigilant, be smart and enjoy your holidays.