Happy (Khmer) New Year

All quiet on Phnom Penh's normally busy streets

All quiet on Phnom Penh's normally busy streets

The April holidays are upon us again. I love being in Phnom Penh during the New Year as almost everyone leaves town to go home to the provinces. Streets are empty and it’s so much quieter. The downside is the bloody police. In the run up to any holiday here you have to be extra vigilant to avoid being robbed by the police. This is due to the fact the boys in blue need money to party, they are quite open about it “a crate of beer is $10” is often the bribe they require (it’s cheaper out of holiday season). It doesn’t matter if you have done anything wrong or not, they will keep coming up with reasons to extort money from you even if you have all the right paperwork and did nothing wrong. It does p@*% me off that I have to take circuitous routes to get anywhere in town right now.

What’s really annoying about this is that there is so much extremely dangerous driving going on and yet they do nothing to stop it. They just pull over people on motorbikes who happen to pass by and know they can intimidate (rob)… They certainly wouldn’t dare to stop anyone driving a Lexus, Landcruiser or Humvee.

As a favorite reason for being pulled up is for the heinous crime of driving with your lights on in the daytime, I don’t see this changing anytime soon. By the way it seems to be ok to drive around all night with your lights off… although that might just be because the cops are busy spending their hard earned cash on whisky and hookers.

I saw a new low for the Cambodian police today on the riverside. A street book seller with a hunchback was sitting down resting in the heat of the day when 2 cops pulled up and started shouting and shoving him around. As a crowd started to gather, including several angry looking foreigners, they quickly took some of his books and rode off. According to some locals the cops wanted their beer money for New Year, I understand all the street sellers have to pay to them. It’s so sad to see the contempt some Khmers have for their fellow countrymen and the lengths these sad and viscous thugs will go to.

Happy New Year to everyone… well, most of you anyway. Not those damned cops.

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About Allan Michaud

English Wildlife Photographer/Environmental Filmmaker based in Cambodia
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