May 06 2012

A spate of bag snatchings in Siem Reap

Published by at 12:39 pm under Health & safety

I was going to write about the best spots for sinking a beer while watching the day slip down over the horizon, but something has come up so you’ll have to wait for that little ray of sunshine. Instead, it has come to our attention that at least five female expats have had their bags snatched (in one case an attempted snatch) over the last week or so. This is highly unusual in Siem Reap, and travellers are therefore advised to take extra care with their belongings at the moment.

Lurking dangers in Siem Reap

Lurking dangers in Siem Reap.

The snatches usually take place at night and are conducted by one or two men on a motorbike who swing close and grab. In almost every case, the person they stole from was carrying a bag across their body, as we are all usually advised to do. More alarmingly, some of the victims were on bicycles, though thankfully their straps snapped before they could be dragged off.

Prevention is always better than cure, so people should take more than the usual precautions. In particular, if you have a small backpack, use it, with both straps. If you don’t have one, it might be worthwhile picking one up cheap from the stalls at the front of the Central Market (overlooking Sivatha Boulevard). Better yet, ditch everything at your hotel, and just carry the cash and bits that you need in your pockets. If you are carrying a bag with the strap across your body, make sure the bag is not roadside. Don’t carry all your bank cards, and leave your passport and other valuables in your hotel safe or other security deposit system.

Be extra-extra vigilant if you’re cycling or on the back of a moto. One piece of advice suggests putting your bag in your basket and tying the straps around the handlebars. This saved one potential victim, but you also run the risk of being seriously thrown from your bike. If the bag is being snatched from your body, being dragged off your bike, or a moto, can result in terrible injuries and, in Phnom Penh and Thailand, has resulted in people being killed.

If your bag is snatched, don’t fight the snatcher or chase after them. Thieves in Cambodia are treated brutally when caught, so he’ll have little to lose from making sure he can get away by whatever means necessary. In Phnom Penh, mugging victims have been shot for resisting.

Please do report the incident to the tourist police, and your guesthouse or hotel should be able to manage that for you. The police can’t react if they don’t know, and the more incidents that are reported the more pressure will be brought to catch the thieves. You are highly unlikely to recover your property through reporting to the police though, so don’t get your hopes up too high on that. It’s also a good idea to report it to your embassy.

Clusters of robberies like this often occur in the period running up to major festivals and events in Cambodia, and elsewhere. Under normal circumstances, it’s not easy to think of a safer place than Siem Reap, and we hope this cluster will end soon.

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2 responses so far

2 Responses to “A spate of bag snatchings in Siem Reap”

  1. Annaon 06 May 2012 at 4:17 pm

    Thanks Nikki for the post. I had my purse snatched just days before Khmer New Year last year (so sounds like around the same time of year as these incidents). The “snatchers” as you described were on a moto while I was on a bicycle. The peculiar thing about them was that both riders (the driver and the passenger) were wearing a helmet with visors down. As you know, you almost never see in Cambodia a passenger wearing a helmet. So while you don’t always get to see your snatchers ahead of time (unfortunately), if you do, two helmets with visors down might be a red flag (especially if these attacks are made by the same guys).

    Hope everyone in Siem Reap stays safe.

  2. Papion 20 May 2014 at 7:48 pm

    May 21, 2014. Bag snatching is alive and well. I just had my bag snatched from the front basket of my bicycle.

    A little past 11pm and I was on my way to the pharmacy (got the runs). I got all the meds I needed, bananas, etc. I stop and buy few more things, water, gatorade, t-shirt. I put them all in my single strap sack bag (those hippie bags) and place it in my front basket.

    I was riding back to my guesthouse near National Museum. As I was heading back I had the usual spate of tuk tuk drivers offering weed, etc. I either ignored them or simply said no thanks.

    Fast forward I’m getting closer to my guesthouse and a local drives up next to me on his motorbike and asks if I need weed. In hindsight, he was checking out if there was anything on me worth robbing. He must’ve seen the bag in my front basket.

    After telling him I need nothing, he rides away. Just a few minutes later a little further down the road, 2 guys on a motorbike slow down next to me and grab my bag and speed off. It all happened very fast and there’s nothing you can do. I was fortunate that I had nothing valuable in that bag except the meds I needed for my bloody diarrhea and food.

    I was lucky I only lost about $25 usd worth of stuff, I felt good that they didn’t score a big theft with me…I’m sure the thugs were disappointed with the contents.

    It’s important to add that the Khmer people are not all like this. It is very easy to get angry and direct it towards the people but where there’s poverty, there’s crime.

    Stay safe fellow travelers. Keep exploring and make this world a safer place.

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