Corruption - Answer #3
3.) You've been pulled over by the police for making an illegal left turn on your motorbike. You're guilty. They ask for $20. What do you do?
ANSWER: You certainly don't pay it. $20 is absolute nonsense.
First of all, in Cambodia you do not hand over your license, registration, and insurance proof because hardly anybody has all three let alone even one. When asked to pay $20, or whatever inflated 'fine' is requested, the first word out of your mouth should be "sombot". This means receipt. Every infraction has a fixed fine and a receipt goes with it.
Of course you can't read Khmer but you can read numbers, right? Look for something that looks like a number, 3,000 is a likely figure. No, not 3,000 dollars but 3,000 riels - about 75 cents US. And pay it. If the officer tries to write out a receipt for something like the ridiculous $20 he asked for, then you'll have to bargain because he's writing out a bogus receipt. Bargaining generally means standing around for a few minutes smiling and smoking cigarettes. Then the price will be a dollar. But you shouldn't have to do this because the police are supposed to have pre-written receipts, as often when they are on a fund-raising campaign they already have a specific infraction in mind. In Siem Reap this is usually going the wrong way on a one-way street - enforced around Psah Chas and on the west side of the road along the river. In Phnom Penh it's that plus illegal left turns or the lack of a number plate that gets you pulled over.
If by any chance you are the passenger on a motorcycle taxi and the driver is pulled over, don't be the least bit surprised if they turn to you to pay the fine. You are under no legal obligation to pay your driver's fine and both the police and your driver know this. So don't pay it!
The important thing to remember is that you do not need to cave in to unreasonable demands made by traffic police. But if you are guilty, accept this fact and pay the fine - the correct fine.
All text and photographs © 1998 - 2006 Gordon Sharpless. Commercial or editorial usage without written permission of the copyright holder is prohibited.