This is an annual report produced in
conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh.
The current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Cambodia at
Level 1, indicating that travelers should exercise normal precautions while in
the country. Exercise increased caution in Phnom Penh due to crime; and in very remote areas of
Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Pursat, Siem Reap, Pailin, and Kampong Thom
provinces due to land mines.
Crime and Safety Situation
The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh does not assume responsibility for the professional
ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS
Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no
responsibility for the quality of service provided.
Review OSAC’s Cambodia-specific webpage
for original OSAC reports, consular alerts, and contact information, some of
which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
There is serious risk from crime in Phnom Penh. Criminal activity in
Cambodia, especially Phnom Penh, remained high in 2018, with approximately the
same level of violence and frequency of incidents as the prior year. The
majority of the crimes are opportunistic and for financial gain, such as cell
phone or motorbike thefts. Criminals specifically target Westerners for crimes
motivated by financial gain, although perpetrators rarely intend to use
violence or cause physical harm. Pickpocketing and purse snatching are
commonplace, with pedestrians and tuk tuk
(two-wheeled cart pulled by a motor scooter commonly used for local
transportation) passengers the prime victims. Pickpockets also target
transportation centers, market areas, special events, the riverfront area, and
crowded buses traveling to the provinces. Embassy employees have been the
victims of purse and cell phone snatchings. When snatchings occur, bystanders
often attempt to apprehend the snatchers, usually pursuing, and, if successful,
detaining (and often beating) the suspects until police arrive.
Avoid wearing expensive jewelry and carrying bags that are easy to
snatch, and walk against traffic where possible. Only take tuk tuks with a cage or physical barrier to the outside to discourage
thefts, and closely guard items that criminals can easily grab. In addition,
never leave valuables or passports stored in luggage out of reach or sight,
such as under a bus or in a tuk tuk. Criminals
have robbed patrons withdrawing money from ATMs on the street; only use ATMs
inside hotels, banks, or other enclosed spaces.
Motorbike thefts also occur, with thieves sometimes using force to
steal moving motorbikes. These crimes, along with cell phone thefts and other
petty thievery, continue at critical levels; criminals often meet resistance with
escalating violence. The relative of a U.S. Embassy staff member suffered a
broken collarbone when pushed off his motorbike at night during a robbery. In a
number of other cases, thieves brandished edged weapons or firearms to steal
motorbikes from their victims, usually after dark.
Violent crimes, including armed robberies, do occur. Nighttime
robberies are more common than robberies in the daytime. There were a number of
reports of shootings and stabbings during armed robberies. While most of the
victims of armed robberies and other violent crimes, such as sexual assault, are
Cambodian, foreigners should also exercise caution. Visitors should also
recognize that excessive consumption of alcohol could make them more vulnerable
to being a victim of a crime, especially at night. In the event of an armed
confrontation, victims should immediately hand over the property and attempt to
leave the area to avoid escalation or injury.
Youth gangs operating throughout Phnom Penh commit many of the
phone and purse snatchings. These gangs can be violent and sometimes attack
each other over turf battles or perceived insults. Late night altercations
between rival gangs occur on occasion, including at least one culminating near the
U.S. Embassy that ended only when a police officer fired into the air to disperse
the group. Such altercations, however, are rare in areas where foreigners
Nighttime burglaries of occupied apartments in areas of Phnom Penh
where foreigners live increased in the final months of 2018, including
apartments as high as the fifth floor, accessed through unsecured windows. Locals
and foreigners alike were the victims in such cases.
National and transnational
organized crime (especially involving human, drug, and wildlife trafficking)
continues to be a problem in Cambodia. The port city of Sihanoukville has seen
a significant rise in Chinese influence and residents with large property
investments, including hotels and casinos catering to Chinese tourists. The number
of Chinese perpetrators and victims of crime increased dramatically in 2018,
with Chinese making up the vast majority of foreigners arrested for committing
crimes in Cambodia, per late 2018CNP reporting. Fights between rival groups of
Chinese have occurred in Sihanoukville and elsewhere. The number of Chinese individuals
arrested for both consuming and selling illegal drugs, especially
methamphetamine, has also increased. Chinese groups have established online
fraud operations targeting Chinese living in China, with Cambodian authorities
arresting a number and turning them over to Chinese authorities.
Several U.S. travelers, including
official US government travelers, have reported receiving fake $100 bills from
ATMs and, on one occasion, from an exchange booth at the international airport.
The bills are also referred to as “ghost money,” and are good color photocopies
of actual $100 notes with the notation “COPY” added, making them novelty rather
than counterfeit bills. Locals use these bills as offerings, especially during
Chinese New Year, and can buy them in bulk at local markets. Travelers should
always immediately inspect and feel the bills they receive from an ATM, bank,
exchange booth, or store to make sure they are genuine. Immediately photograph any
fake bills that come from an ATM as evidence, along with the receipt and a
photo of the victim standing at the ATM, and take them to the bank operating
the ATM. In the cases reported by U.S. citizens to the Embassy, the victim did
not immediately notice that the bills were fake, and only discovered the
problem several days later, when they attempted to use them at a local
business. When they reported this to the bank, the bank claimed the bills had
not come from their ATM, and refused to refund the money.
There have been occasional reported reports of
thieves spiking foreigners’ drinks in some establishments to incapacitate
victims and rob or assault them. While the problem does not appear to be
widespread in Cambodia, exercise caution, especially if out drinking alone. For
further information on consuming alcohol abroad, see OSAC’s report, Shaken:
The Don'ts of Alcohol Abroad
No areas of Cambodia are off limits for Embassy
Some U.S. citizens have reported threats of
personal injury, extortion, detention, or kidnapping related to personal
business disputes, in particular those involving real estate. If you are
planning to engage in real estate deals or other significant financial
transactions, please proceed with caution and retain the appropriate legal
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Driving in Cambodia can be very hazardous. Drivers
widely ignore traffic laws, and police haphazardly enforce them. Drivers
routinely run red lights and stop signs, drive the wrong way down one-way
streets, and frequently fail to turn their headlights on after dark. The city
streets are crowded with cars, tuk tuks,
and large numbers of motor scooters (motos)
weaving unpredictably through traffic, creating hazards. Many streets have poor
lighting. Parked vehicles or food stands usually occupy Phnom Penh’s sidewalks,
forcing pedestrians to walk in the streets and adding to the dangers.
Minor traffic accidents are quite common in
Phnom Penh. In general, traffic moves very slowly during daylight hours, but
speeds increase as traffic thins at night. Drunk drivers are also a hazard,
especially at night. If involved in an accident, drivers generally attempt to
flee the scene in their vehicle or on foot. Drivers also routinely use cell
phones while driving, leading to distraction. Motos often carry three or more people, including children. Helmet
use, while increasing, is not widespread.
Driving in the countryside can also be
hazardous, and emergency medical care is almost non-existent. Motos, pedestrians, slow moving trucks,
and livestock share the roads in the countryside, creating additional hazards. The
risk of accidents increases at night. For this reason, personnel assigned to
the U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh may not drive after dark between or outside of
major population centers.
Public Transportation Conditions
U.S. Embassy personnel in Phnom Penh may take tuk tuks, taxis, local and intercity
buses, and ferries. Embassy policy
prohibits personnel from using moto taxis,
since there are no licensed moto taxi
drivers and no helmets for passengers. Tuk
tuks are the most common form of public transportation within Phnom Penh,
but the number of metered taxis is growing. Two ridesharing apps, Grab and
PassApp, are also rapidly gaining in popularity. Customers can order a three-wheeled
covered rickshaw, traditional tuk tuk,
sedan, or SUV with these apps. The biggest concern with tuk tuks and rickshaws is purse or phone snatchings. Passengers
should keep phones, bags and valuables out of sight while riding in a tuk tuk or rickshaw, and be on the lookout
for snatchers on motos who reach in
to grab valuables, especially cell phones, from unsuspecting riders. While some
taxis have meters, passengers taking tuk
tuks should negotiate the fare with the driver in advance, since the
traditional tuk tuks do not have
meters. On the rivers or off the coast, only take ferries with life jackets for
each passenger. Regardless of the mode of transportation, guard your belongings
There are no specific security concerns with Phnom
Penh International Airport (PNH). Fixed-price taxi service from the airport,
currently $15 to downtown Phnom Penh, is reliable and safe. The U.S. Embassy is
not aware of specific scams or problems with theft at the airport. There were
several reports of travelers arriving at PNH having their luggage stolen out of
their open tuk tuk as they departed
the airport parking lot; for this reason, take taxis and not tuk tuks from the airport to downtown
Other Travel Conditions
The safety record of ferries seems to have
improved in recent years, but overcrowding and lack of sufficient life jackets
for all passengers remains a concern. The U.S. Embassy does not prohibit
Embassy personnel from using ferries, advises caution.
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism
There is minimal risk from terrorism in Phnom
Penh. No local, regional, or international terrorist groups pose a specific
threat to Cambodia or to U.S. interests in Cambodia.
There is no specific anti-U.S. or anti-Western
sentiment among the population in Cambodia. In recent months, government
leaders have criticized the United States over its principled opposition to the
government’s anti-democratic crackdown, and revived complaints over the United
States’ Vietnam War legacy in Cambodia. Nevertheless, Cambodians in general
view the United States quite favorably, and there have been no incidents of
anti-U.S. protests in Phnom Penh in the last three years.
Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
is moderate risk from civil unrest in Phnom Penh. The ruling Cambodian People’s
Party (CPP) has been in power for nearly 40 years, with most of that time under
the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen. The CPP routinely uses the levers of
government, especially the judiciary and police, to intimidate government
critics and opposition parties, by charging and sentencing opposition leaders with
crimes, including corruption, adultery, treason, and defamation. Provincial
governments have stifled political debate by refusing to grant permits for civil
society and opposition party demonstrations or gatherings. Following the well-run June 2017 local elections, in which
the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) came close to winning a
majority of votes, the Cambodian government in September 2017 launched an
anti-democratic crackdown, arresting CNRP leader Kem Sokha on charges of
treason, outlawing the CNRP, banning several domestic and international NGOs while
intimidating others, and shuttering or severely restricting most independent
The Cambodian government’s banning of the CNRP
effectively removed any meaningful opposition to the CPP in advance of the July
2018 national elections. As a result, the CPP won all of the seats in the
National Assembly, although 20 political parties enjoying the tacit support of
the CPP competed in the elections. The government has since taken a harder line
against remaining CNRP activists, with intimidation tactics most often
involving the police and the courts. The likelihood of political unrest has
diminished, as most Cambodians are afraid to take to the streets to voice
political opposition, and many opposition and civic leaders now live in exile.
Protesters in the last three years have staged,
or attempted to stage, peaceful demonstrations outside of government
ministries, Phnom Penh City Hall, opposition political party headquarters,
international organizations such as the World Bank, and the Prime Minister’s
residence in Phnom Penh. The marches usually mean to draw attention to a
specific grievance, such as working conditions in garment factories, land seizures,
or the arrest of specific opposition party figures or journalists. The government
has responded in numbers significant enough to prevent violence or protests.
For instance, in 2016, the government stopped CNRP supporters planning to march
from the countryside to CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh and into the city with massive
roadblocks on the outskirts of the city and downtown. In every event with the
potential to trigger civil unrest since then – such as the lead up to the 2017
commune elections, the arrest of Kem Sokha, and the banning of the CNRP – the government
threatened, or deployed, similar displays of force designed to quell any
demonstrations. There were no significant incidents of civil unrest in 2018.
Cambodia is ethnically homogenous, with the
majority of the population Buddhist and Khmer. As such, there is not
significant religious or ethnic violence among Cambodians. However, the growing
numbers of Chinese coming to Cambodia is creating the possibility of future ethnic
tension. Many Cambodians are concerned over the rise of Chinese influence and
residents in Cambodia.
Flooding remains the most significant
environmental hazard for Phnom Penh. During the rainy season, streets can
become impassible, causing major traffic delays. The standing water on the
streets often contains sewage. Rabies is a large concern in Cambodia, from wild
animals and stray dogs alike. Anyone bitten by a dog or wild animal should seek
medical attention immediately. There is only one facility in the entire
country, the Pasteur Institute of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, which can test an
animal for rabies.
Land mines and
unexploded ordnance (UXO) exist in remote, rural areas throughout Cambodia, and
especially in Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Pursat, Siem Reap, and Kampong Thom
provinces. Travelers in these regions should never walk in forested areas or
even in dry rice paddies without a local guide, and should stick to clearly
marked paths. Areas around small bridges on secondary roads are particularly
dangerous. Travelers should not touch anything that resembles a mine or UXO;
notify the Cambodia Mine Action Center at
In many cases, hotels and hostels do not meet
Western fire codes or standards.
There is not significant concern in Cambodia
about economic espionage. Counterfeit goods of all kinds are available. Most
banks in Phnom Penh can exchange U.S. dollars for Cambodian riel, but merchants
accept U.S. dollars everywhere in Phnom Penh, with small change provided in riel.
Some counterfeit U.S. bills have circulated in Phnom Penh in the past year.
There is in general no widespread government
surveillance of individuals or property. However, the government has
demonstrated that it is capable of surveilling, including online, in an overt
manner, individuals it deems critical of the government.
Personal Identity Concerns
In general, there is tacit acceptance of
individuals with different sexual orientations, races, nationalities, genders
Women walking alone in some parts of the city
have reported receiving unwanted stares and, on at least one occasion, unwanted
physical contact. There
have been reports of sexual assaults near drinking establishments and possible
date rape drugs to incapacitate female travelers.
There are no legal restrictions on same-sex
sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Cambodia.
While in Cambodia, individuals with
disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what
they find in the United States. Currently, except for buildings and hotels built
under international standards, most public places and public transportation are
not accessible. Persons with disabilities will face difficulties with
Cambodia’s sidewalks, rest rooms, road crossings, and tourist areas.
Cambodia is source, transit, and destination
country for illegal drugs. Marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and
other illegal drugs are available. Some criminals are also drug users who turn
to crime to finance their drug purchases. A number of foreign citizens,
including U.S. citizens, are in jail in Cambodia on drug charges.
Traditional kidnapping and extortion schemes
exist in Cambodia, with Cambodians the majority of kidnappers and victims. In
2018, there were several cases of wealthy Chinese kidnapped by other Chinese in
Cambodia for ransom. For more information, consider OSAC’s report, Kidnapping:
There are freedom of speech restrictions in
Cambodia. Anyone who criticizes or insults the King by any means could face
between one to five years in prison. This ban includes insults, or criticism
made online and via social media.
Officers of the Cambodia National Police do not
receive adequate pay or training, and are not always responsive to requests for
assistance. In the event that a foreigner is the victim of a robbery, it is
unlikely that the police will recover any stolen property. Different divisions
of the Cambodian National Police wear tan or green uniforms. Cambodian traffic
police wear blue uniforms.
U.S. citizens who are subject of police
detention or harassment should request immediate contact with the U.S. Embassy.
Crime Victim Assistance
The Cambodian government in 2017 announced the
creation of a national police hotline for foreign nationals in Cambodia,
staffed 24/7 with Khmer and English speakers. The national hotline number is
(031) 201-2345, with the same number available using the WhatsApp social media
application. The email address for the hotline is email@example.com.
and services in Cambodia in general do not meet international standards. Phnom
Penh and Siem Reap each have a limited number of internationally run clinics
and hospitals that can provide basic medical care and stabilization. Medical
care outside of these two cities is almost non-existent. Local pharmacies
provide a limited supply of prescription and over-the-counter medications, but
because the quality of locally obtained medications can vary greatly, make sure
to bring a supply of your medications that is adequate for the duration of your
stay in Cambodia. You should be wary of purchasing local medication.
Counterfeit medication is readily available, often indiscernible from authentic
medication, and potentially lethal.
The medical infrastructure in Phnom Penh
continues to make incremental improvements, but many gaps remain. In general,
the Cambodian health care system has very low capacity for dealing with
emergency medical situations outside of major population centers.
Emergency transportation to a hospital, trauma
care, and the national blood bank are underdeveloped and inconsistent. There
are multiple reports of poorly trained emergency medical personnel conducting
emergency procedures, such as opening an airway or controlling severe bleeding,
incorrectly or not at all, resulting in death. Local ambulances and many local
hospitals also demand payment for service before they will even respond,
further compounding the potential for poor outcomes. The potential for
surviving a major vehicle accident or life-threatening medical emergency in
Cambodia is less than 50%. It is likely even lower considering lack of neurosurgical
and orthopedic expertise.
While the National Blood Bank can produce basic
quality blood products, donations are routinely below the amounts needed. The
National Blood Bank admits that it can only supply about one-third of the
Nation’s blood supply needs. With such a limited supply, it is also only able
to produce basic blood product, which limits the advancement of medical
procedures in country.
In addition, there are many other significant
weaknesses in the medical infrastructure in Cambodia. For example, a very
limited number of clinics and hospitals meet international standards, and these
facilities are only in urban settings (e.g. Phnom Penh, Siem Reap,
Sihanoukville); in general, local physicians are poorly trained, with an
inadequate system of credentialing, and there is very little sub-specialty care
(e.g. neonatal care, trauma surgery) even at international medical facilities.
Contact Information for Available Medical
Phnom Penh Hospital: 023-991-000, 023-991-000
Hospital: 023-724-417, 023-724-418
Hospital: 023-214-955, 023-214-966)
Clinic: For medical, not surgical, emergencies: 023-216-911 or 012-816-911. For
emergencies: 023-216-911 or 012-816-911.
Available Air Ambulance Services
There are no reliable Cambodia-based air
ambulance services. Both Royal Phnom Penh Hospital and Royal Angkor Hospital in
Siem Reap can arrange air ambulance service to Bangkok. Other air ambulance
Air Ambulance: +66 8989 69000
Flight Services: +65 8484 5168
International SOS: +44
208 762 8133 x1
Note that the above services general operate on
a provider-to-provider basis and often require payment for services in advance.
Obtain comprehensive travel insurance,
including coverage for medical evacuation (medevac), before travel.
Country-specific Vaccination and Health
Avoid eating street food in Phnom Penh. Avoid
tap water and ice cubes outside of urban areas.
According to the CDC, travelers to Cambodia should
receive vaccinations against Japanese encephalitis, Hepatitis A, typhoid, and
Country Council Information
Interested private-sector security managers
should contact OSAC’s Asia-Pacific team with any questions.
Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
#1, St. 96
(entrance on St. 51 between St. 96 and 102), Phnom Penh
after-hours telephone: +855-23-728-000
Embassy/Consulate Contact Numbers
U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh Switchboard: +855 23
Marine Post One: +855 23 728-111
Regional Security Office: +855 23 728-110
Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to
locate you in an emergency.
Additional Resource: Cambodia
Country Information Sheet