I live in a gated neighborhood in Phnom Penh with guards at three gates. They patrol the neighborhood at irregular intervals, both day and night. The community is walled in; barbed wire is mounted all around. Sometimes I wonder whether these guards would really be any help if you needed them. They don’t let just anybody in and ask motodups and tuk-tuks their business. But if you drive a car nobody will stop you. If the car is big enough they will give you a snappy salute.
Security is supposed to be good in those neighborhoods; at least my wife used to believe so. One recent night I was awoken by some loud noise. Being half asleep I couldn’t really make out what this was – a party, an argument, or what?
The next day we learned that a burglar had broken into a house nearby. On making his exit he encountered the 14-year-old daughter who returned to her room from a bathroom downstairs. She screamed her lungs out, grabbed the thief by his sleeve and tried to keep him from escaping. But she was no match. The burglar wrestled free and escaped over the balcony.
The people in the house are an American family. Now here is the baffling thing. They had been burglarized 4 times before. Each time the burglar entered the house through an open balcony door on the third (or some say second) floor. Nimble people can easily climb up to those balconies. Most Cambodian houses feature iron bars in the windows. They are an ugly sight but an absolute must as any builder will tell you. But all those bars won’t help if the door is left open.
The parents realized they had been burlarized after each incident – obviously money was missing - but failed to tell their kids so as not to frighten them - not altogether a smart thought. Consequently the kids didn’t feel they needed to observe the simplest form of safety precaution by keeping their doors closed, never mind the floor. Their house is located on the outer perimeter. The wall runs about one meter behind their house. The two adjoining houses are empty. On the outside of wall there is dirt trail – very convenient for any would-be burglars; equally convenient is that there is a gap in the barbed wire between the properties. They can just stroll along that dirt path and look who left the door open. I can only presume this is exactly what the thief in this case did. Having gotten lucky one time he just thought, ‘Well maybe I’ll get lucky with some other careless people.” He may have been surprised himself that he could break into the same house 5 times, assuming it was the same man. How naïve or stupid can that American family be?
The take each time: between $500 and $1,000.
After that incident, we heard that burglaries are not that uncommon in this community. People told about several of them; in one case the booty was a cool $100,000. Ah, these Cambodian people. They just love to keep their money at home, like there aren’t any banks in the country.
If I have more than $100 in my pocket, that is a lot. Who keeps money at home? Even if you want to do a large transaction, you can always go to the bank first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, checks are still a rarity in Cambodia’s business circles.
|A house like this; easy to scale, right?|