How to Pay a Policeman in Cambodia for Traffic Offences
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How to Pay a Policeman in Cambodia for Traffic Offences

Being stopped by the police in Cambodia for minor traffic offences. How to reduce the time delay and continue your journey.

Although technically a form of corruption, giving a traffic policeman a 'gift' if you have committed a traffic offence is common practice. Unlike in most western countries if you are stopped for, say not wearing a crash helmet, you are not normally issued with a ticket that you then have to pay to the courts. Obviously for serious offences such as an accident where someone has been injured you will be appropriately charged and possibly face the courts.

Certainly in Phnom Penh you will not be stopped if you are not committing an offence but there are some peculiar offences that a new arrival in Cambodia hiring a motor scooter will be unaware of and you will be stopped for.

Examples of strange traffic laws in Cambodia.

You are not allowed to have you headlight on during daylight hours although it is legal not to have them on at night. The reasoning behind this is that only the military or government agencies may use them during the day and to have them on gives the traffic police an idea who is driving.

Only the driver of a motor scooter is required to wear a helmet. Passengers are not required to.

You are not allowed to drive a motor scooter either shirtless or with your shirt undone exposing your stomach.

What to do if you are stopped for a minor offence.

If you are pulled over at one of the many traffic police check points do not be unduly concerned. You should be pleasant and smile at the person who has stopped you and greet them nicely. Most checkpoints will have an English speaking policeman, so if you cannot speak Khmer then this is the person you should talk to.

Ask what you have done and the policeman will tell you and normally walk a small distance away from you. If you have not committed the offence or you feel you have been unfairly picked out because many other people are doing the same thing you have been stopped for then you can argue your case. However you will spend more time delayed and even then probably have to pay the official on the spot fine.

So in order to be on your way quickly the best thing to do is to give a small gift to either the officer in charge or to any other officer. Do not do this in an open manner by getting out your money and simply handing it over in full view. Although as I mentioned it is common practice and everyone knows it happens it is still a form of corruption and the handing over of money should not been done in full view.

If the offence is minor, such as driving without a helmet or having your lights on during the day, a gift over a dollar is normally enough to be able to get on your way without any further delay. So take a dollar from your pocket or wallet and fold it so it fits in your hand. Go to the officer in charge and smiling simply shake hands with the money in your hand. The officer will accept the payment normally without conversation or pleasantries. At this point once the gift has been accepted you can be on your way.

There are occasions when the 'gift' will not be taken from you as obviously the police at the end of the day have to have something to show the authorites for their efforts. So you will have to pay an on the spot fine. However, this is more time consuming than expensive as most fines are between $2.50 to $5.00 depending on the offence.

The system actually works.

Although it is a form of corruption, in fact this system of law enforcement actually works efficiently because as I wrote earlier if you are not committing an offence then you will not be stopped. If you are continually being stopped for say, not wearing a helmet, eventually you will buy a helmet thus achieving want the government intends without the government having the cost of court procedures. It also allows the government to pay a much smaller salary to police officials which is supplemented by these gifts thus saving on the social expenditure budget. In other words in does away with a lot of red tape and formal procedures.

Image courtesy of MorgueFile

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Comments (2)

i despise bribery like that, to me it is just so wrong, wonderful article though, I thoroughly enjoyed it

Yes paying off is not too nice (can't see me getting away with it in England!) but nobody seems to mind over here apart from certain NGO's. Even the other ex pats accept it mostly. It's just how things are.