Monday, November 8, 2010

A Police Story

Cambodian police enjoy a less than sterling reputation in general and are not known for their fair and impartial dealings with foreigners. That said, I had a pretty good encounter with a few of Cambodia's finest a couple of months back.

I was walking along the side of Sothearos Blvd here in Phnom Penh when some kid on a motorcycle came weaving through traffic going way too fast. Not an uncommon occurrence. As he sped past he weaved wide and accidentally clipped me from behind, catching me in the arm and the back of the leg with his handlebar and foot peg. It knocked me down, but not him. He just kept going.

I was scratched and a bit bruised, but nothing too terrible. Picking myself up I watched him disappear into the traffic ahead, his distinctive bright pink sequined shirt flapping in the wind. I thought he was long gone. But a moment later I noticed that pink shirt turn into a house about 300 or 400 meters up the road. I kept on walking that direction and after a few hundred meters, sure enough, there he was, marked by his pink shirt and nearby motorcycle, kneeling on the sidewalk outside a house delivering instructions to some workers repairing the pavement. And there just happened to be three cops standing there looking at the work being done.

Now I know that, generally speaking, the foreigner is at fault in any accident regardless of the circumstances, but still feeling bruised and miffed I decided to go for it. I waded into the crowd, pointed an accusing finger and scolded him in English for hitting me and running away. I looked around. People stared at me. Nobody seemed to understand anything except that I was angry. So I switched to speaking Khmer and said almost the same thing, but this time to the cops, displaying my bruised arm and pointing back down the street in the direction it happened.

When I was done all eyes turned towards Mr. Pink Shirt. He got a big shit-eating grin on his face and denied everything. The cops were having none of it though. My story made good sense, it jived with the fact that he had just come from that direction and his nervous smile branded his denial 'bullshit.' The cops immediately started lecturing him and moving in on him. The other Khmers there backed away. He continued his denials, which seemed to be making the cops angry. Other people nearby started to look our way, attracted by the sounds of angry words. One of the cops grabbed him by the arm and stood him up.

With all this commotion, I decided it was time for me to move on and just strolled away, continuing up Sothearos. About 30 meters on, I looked back. A cop had him by the scruff, Mr. Pink Shirt was screaming, 'no, no, no...' (in Khmer) and a crowd was forming. I felt completely satisfied with the results and continued my walk.

Kudos to those cops. Good job.


  1. Wow, the times they are a changin'.

    I knew someone some years back that was hit by a rich Cambodian. The excuse made as to why it was the foreigner's fault was that if the foreigner hadn't been in the country then the accident wouldn't have happened. Case closed!

  2. "the times they are a changin'"

    That probably would have been a better title for this story.

  3. Maybe they let the crowd beat him to death: