Rich & Poor: "Cambodia is about to enter an era where there is no middle class, with a new found wealth. Visible extravagant lifestyles in opulent five stars hotels and restaurants with fine luxury automobiles, late model SUV." - Unknown


[Life on the Road]

Do You Have a Story to Tell? Don't You!

This could be You!





In a country builds on appointing-patronage-client-system, most authorities come with an attitude; either you accept us or fear us. In your face, in the streets, in the hall of government or in private establishments, they will make sure that you got the message.

Police Lines: Harassment made by police is quite common. It’s very much like road rage; the big one intimidates the small one. Vehicles are the king of the road; motorcycle dominates those that walk the streets, and everything else down the lines. Those who do not own car or motorbike are harassment free but risks getting run over by cars, because most sidewalks turn into parking lots and micro-economy.



People tailgate and honk like mad. To cross the intersection; one must pull into an incoming traffic, blocking one-lane to form headway.

People advices one another to drive in the middle of the road, because it allows driver more freedom to maneuver left-and-right.

Traffic Violation: Traffic violations in Cambodia are long-lists, depending on what the police want. U-Turn, illegal parking, running red light, and overtaking are parts of everyday driving.

One may witness the police themselves violates the traffic law that they want to impose on the motorists. Chaotic on the roads and fear of police harassment has left motorists exhausted and uncertain.

Speeding is not included, because there is no steed limit in Phnom Penh. Most inter-province highways, the speed limit is set at t 90km/h, but it rarely enforced or stay within the speed limit.

Most drivers want to be number-one and ahead of the pack. Old car and less expansive must follow and stay behind the new one. Government officials are always in a hurry to save the country from catastrophe.

Most claimed to have driven faster than the legal speed limit. Most also claimed to have driven faster than the European countries and the US

Driver License

Driver License: Most motorists carry a duplicated copy driver license, because police is known to have confiscated and use it as a bargaining tool to extract money from motorists. As this happened, time on the sidewalk is always on their side. They would ruin your day until you bribe your way out.

Vehicle Registration: A good numbers of vehicles sold in Cambodia never legally transferred the ownership title to a legal buyer. There are many reasons and complex. Most final sale with signed and thumb-printed documents between buyer and seller, with few witnesses during sale transactions. This alone gives enough reason for police to ruin your day. In most cases, police demands original documents, which most do not carry with them.

Daytime Running Light: Having your headlight on during daylight, police constitutes it as a traffic violation. In Cambodia, police concluded that there is no tunnel. Accidentally having the headlight on blinds an incoming traffic; a reason uses to stop and fine the motorists. Running daylight headlight was invented as part of road safety, particularly for motorcycles.

Selfless Principle: Most police uphold their principle as it comes to begging for money. Their best weapon in theirs arsenal is to use the law to make claims for money and it works every time in their favor.


Red Cross on Traffic Law

Intimidation Tactics: Most traffic police deliberately harass and intimidate motorists to extorted money. They will demands for documents that are not in their legal jurisdiction.

One common line often uses by the traffic police is to have your vehicle or motorbike impounded or having you present in person at the Police Central. Most classic phrase is that they only “enforces the rule of law and serves public safety”

Police would use everything at their disposal to extort money. In some cases, if nothing else works, police will bargain and negotiate the fine. Most motorists would bribe to avoid having to go through with headache and arguments with police, because you will guarantee to loose.

Happy Hour: Often times, you will run into a gang of police having their day out drinking with friends. They would brag about their shake down tactics with motorists. They would talk about certain motorist resisting arrest and those that they easily manipulated and fall for their tricks.

Location: Police chooses and selects their location carefully. Rundown neighborhoods around markets and school are their prime targets. Around these locations, it is not common to see five to ten policemen loitering on sidewalk, in some cases, with folding table and plastic chair that turns into a sidewalk office.

My Country, My Beer

Police choose major boulevards in Phnom Penh carefully. One of those locations are Norodom Blvd, around the Independence Monument and areas close to high ranking officials. Everyone knows the reason behind it. Many high profile lives on main boularvars.

Prime Time: Time is also a key factor. At around noon, between 11:30am-2:30pm, police are most likely out to stop motorists, because most of their bosses are home having lunch and taking a nap.

Most people want to make a few Riels works throughout the day and nigh. Students are heading home and motodups are making money. This is a prime time for police to make a living. Would you blame them?

Pedestrian Crossings: Most roads in Cambodia have no markings; all motorists are tailgating one another through red-lights or making turns and rarely stop for pedestrians crossing the road.

City Planning: Cambodia has no zoning system. Schools, pagoda, commercial or residential are cramped in one convenient place. Public parks are much same way. There is no public parking space built into the park itself.

Most Public Parks cause traffic jams, because those come to enjoy the park have to park in the street blocking one of the lane. To make matter worse, people are always loitering in the streets, making a living and playing at the same time.

Life on the Road: Police and the motorists are both at risk. Police would rush out into an incoming traffic to stop cars and motorbikes, while the motorists, at the same are trying to run. Sometime, one would make a U-Turn into in coming traffic to get away. It is common, if you could avoid getting caught, you are free to go and police lost their share of earning.

Road Accident

Traffic Depute: In most countries, people call the police for helps, in Cambodia, people call up friends in higher-up, family, father, brother and sister to mediate traffic deputes. There are many reasons behind all this. Big and powerful has the upper hand when it comes to settling deputes in the streets. Police often intervene in favor of the rich and powerful.

Serve and Protect: Police are part of public services, to serve and protect the public’s interest. In the streets of Cambodia, police turns everything into their own little private business to make end meets. There is enough blames to go around when most are in a survival mode and greedy.

Police Central: Everyone is aware of the risks going to the police central. If time is at your disposal; the money is no objection, but that alone is not enough. At this point, police can and will get more money for it. Police obsess and overuse the same line: “Only Enforce the Law”

Vehicle Impound: Too often vehicle impounded by the police never been easy to recover. Too often, spare parts are removed or the vehicle itself, sometime disappeared without a trace. In Cambodia, it’s more like "don’t ask policy", because one will tell you anything. "I don’t know" constitutes "NOT at fault" and free from guilt.

Driving Habit: Majority of motorists rarely uses turn-signals to make legal turns. Making a U-Turn into an incoming traffic is quite a routine. Extensive talk on cell phone, watching Karaoke and vehicles fill with stuffed-animals. Most use the term "Public" loosely as it comes to streets and public properties: It is NOT yours!

Bigger and more expensive the vehicles the more driving privileges one can enjoy with the impunity from police. Once in a while, one will get a salute from the police on the sidewalk.

Seatbelt: It is new phenomenon to Cambodians, because they feel that car will protect them from anything on the road. Most removed them, because they feel that the seatbelts are useless and take up space.

Daily Commute

Child seat: is another factor that Cambodians’ parents never take into consideration as part of their driving and child safety. Children are often found in the front seat with adult, crawling, something at the wheel with the driver.

Tailgate & Honking: People tailgate and honk like mad. To cross the intersection; one must pull into an incoming traffic, blocking one-lane to form headway. People advices one another to drive in the middle of the road, because it allows driver more freedom to maneuver left-and-right, because few stays in within their lane and people are always loitering in the streets, part playing and part making a living.

Passing: People pass on hills; they pass on turns; they pass on bridges and rarely make a complete stop at pedestrians crossing, because there are few or none. Most proceed while the green light is still counting down at 4 seconds. People drive on curb, on grass and around people, where there is way; there is room. Waiting in line, means time-lost.

Red Cross on Traffic Law: At major intersections, you may find children from Red Cross turns public educator on Traffic Law. At this time, the police would take a sideline watching the traffic flow. Most advice given public is "Respect the traffic law is to respect your life”, an excerpt from a speech make by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Overtaking: It’s a way of life. People on the road appear frantically on the move and hurry to go places. Vehicle bearing government plates appear constantly and aggressive on the move to save the country from catastrophic event. Late models vehicle is overtaking the old one; motorcycles overtake pedestrians and cyclo overtakes everything else in a descending orders.

The Conviction: Most convinced that it is not the traffic fine that motorists are trying to run off with the police, are the harassment and intimidation made by the police. Most never considered Driver License a privilege, but literally a given-rights-to-drive recklessly. For motorists, if one can make a run from the police, it is safe and not breaking the law.

Traffic law in Cambodia is more limiting access of driving than enforcing the traffic law. Many concrete road blocks were erected throughout the city to prevent illegal turns. Using alternatives back roads, which most are not suitable to handle heavy traffic, causes the traffic jam.

Everyday, traffic police would risk life running into the street to stop motorists, with the exception to late expensive model, government or military plate. To earn recognitions, in some cases, police would salute the vehicles and makes way for the traffic. Few are excluded from Police harassment. Motorcycles are the most vulnerable on the road, particularly those from rural with old motorcycles and brownish-skin. Also Read: The Killer Humvee

Police turned private security and parking attendant at restaurants, nigh clubs, and casinos to earn supplemental income, using their credential and power vested in them to stop traffic and make way for business patrons.

Immorality into Amorality: Poverty will bear all sins and immoral acts. We are living in a society that is far beyond immorality into amorality. With immorality, conscience will distinguish one between right and wrong. Amorality, one simply does not care. It is all about give and take in the context of poverty!

The Rhetoric will continue!..| 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 |..

About the Author: Vorak, Ny is the founder of

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