Wednesday, November 16, 2005


No left turn?

There’s an intersection of two main roads in the middle of the city. There’s a ‘no U-turn’ sign. There’s apparently also a ‘no left turn’ sign, hidden behind a tree. My colleague from work was driving and we turned left. The police were waiting just around the corner. This happened to me once in Australia. But of course it was a ‘no right turn’ - and there was a sign. That time I was given an infringement notice on official paper and I obediently but begrudgingly paid the $55 fine to the government It was only a no right turn between 3pm and 6pm and it was like, 3.10pm and it was really safe and they have since taken that sign down anyway so the cops that day were just revenue collecting – just like in Cambodia really. In Cambodia the ‘fine’ depends on your bargaining skills and there’s no paper trail. My Cambodian colleague offered 1000 riel (US$0.25) which was not accepted. The policeman wanted 20,000 riel (US$5.00). He started writing out some sort of ticket and said something about going to the station. My colleague then made me get out of the car to offer 5,000 riel. So in my limited Khmer I put on a dumb barang (foreigner) act and eventually with a subtle nod of the head from the superior officer I handed over the cash and the deal was done. So I’ve bribed a police officer. I feel bad but wasn’t keen to find out what the alternative would be. Still if everyone refused to pay then perhaps the police would start policing instead of seeking out money like this and maybe even form some sort of union to pressure the government to increase their pay from $10 per month or whatever it is so they wouldn’t need me to supplement their income.... Oh Cambodia – gotta love it.

My bargaining skills must be better than Jono’s though. He had to pay a cop $2 once but I’ll let him tell the story! And I just heard another AYAD's story where she had to pay $5 for driving the wrong way down a one way street (which everyone does anyway). The police in her case said pay a fine now or go to traffic school (whatever that would be here???) for 3 or 5 days then pay a fine. She tried to say 'I'll go to traffic school' but the cop, obviously preferring the on the spot fine straight into his pocket was very keen to negotiate the fine. Anthea also has a police encounter story on her blog...

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