User login

Keystone Kops

By: EAS Staff Posted: January-31-2008 in
EAS Staff

As the driver of a motorbike or car on Phnom Penh's roads, there is a group of chaps you are going to have to deal with at some stage.

They are dressed in blue, they carry guns, they hunt in packs and they are Phnom Penh's finest.
More specifically - they are Traffic Policeman. Abhorred by everyone, they are a part of life here and when you do eventually get pulled over, the fine you pay is only limited by your ability to talk the talk and walk the walk.

Most people who get flagged down will react in one of two ways; they either pull over as directed or they swerve and do a runner. Now in any other country, this is a serious offence but in Phnom Penh it is a game. And it's a game that's made all the more fun by the fact that police here actually run out onto the road brandishing batons, and many a freshie boy has been clubbed whilst attempting a getaway.

In their defense, you're unlikely to be pulled over for doing nothing; you will have broken a law like driving down a one way street the wrong way, riding a Vespa, having your headlights on in the daytime, running a red light or one of many other trifling offences. Arguing that you did nothing wrong is not going to be an option - you have been busted and now it's time to pay the piper. Breaking traffic laws in Cambodia is a bit of an oxymoron in that no-one knows what the rules are because they haven't been especially well publicized or followed by the general public.

Fines for Khmers are measured in riel and 500- 2000 will usually get them on their merry way. But when you're a barang with an ATM sign on your forehead, things are a little different. Before you know it you will be standing in front of up to six policemen just waiting for your bulging wallet to come out. Given the pittance that the government can afford to pay them, their approach is understandable, nevertheless if you are pulled over by the men in blue, there are ways to limit the damage. Your options essentially are as follows:

a. Do a runner at your own risk (EAS does Not condone this approach)
b. Pull over and remove the keys from your ignition but DO NOT hand them over under any circumstances
c. Be polite. Call them "Bong" (no, this is not a joke)
d. Apologise profusely and tell them you had no idea you had just broken a traffic law
e. If you have them, show your license and registration but DO NOT hand them over under any circumstances.
f. If you are requested to pay anything over $2 - refuse to pay. Simply pull out $2 and wave it at them (offer them $1 and you will be there another hour, whereas $5 is too much) or demand to go to the police station to formalise the fine in which case the fine amount will start dropping immediately
g. Smile and engage them in conversation. If you get them on a good day they might just let you go with a warning!
h. If you happen to have beer on you, give them one or two, beer is better than cash and you'll have a friend for life.

Just remember, you are a visitor in a foreign land and you have to abide by the "rules" just as everyone else does. So use your common sense, stay calm and smile and it will be a minor inconvenience rather than an International Incident. Now here's a quick word of caution - just remember, Traffic Cops are wearing BLUE. If you get pulled over by two guys riding a Honda Nighthawk in Khaki uniforms and berets, toting AK47s…….well that's another story altogether.


Whats on! See our help pages - add your own events

This location does not have any events. Why not add one here!