an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at
the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Cambodia.
For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Cambodia page
for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some
of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC
The current U.S.
Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses
Cambodia at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions.
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. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the
Consular Travel Advisory System.
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Department of State has assessed Phnom Penh as being a CRITICAL-threat location for crime
directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Criminal activity
in Cambodia, especially Phnom Penh, remained high in 2019, with approximately
the same level of violence and frequency of incidents as the year prior. The
majority of crimes committed are opportunistic property crimes committed for
financial gain, such as cell phone or motorbike thefts. Although criminals
specifically target Westerners for crimes motivated by financial gain,
perpetrators rarely seek to intentionally use violence or cause physical harm. All
forms of criminal activity are more common at night than during the day.
and purse snatching are commonplace, with pedestrians and tuk tuk (two-wheeled cart pulled by a motor scooter commonly used
for local transportation) passengers being 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. However,
criminal violence in connection to these thefts often follows active victim resistance.
The Embassy advises its staff to avoid resisting and to give up their valuables
when confronted. Review OSAC’s report, All That You Should
to Cambodia should avoid wearing expensive jewelry and carrying bags that are
easy to snatch. Pedestrians should walk against traffic where possible in order
to maintain better visibility of their surroundings. When using tuk tuks,
choose one with a cage or physical barrier around the passenger compartment in
order to discourage thefts. Tuk tuk passengers should closely guard easily
grabbed items. In addition, never leave valuables or passports stored in
luggage out of reach or out of sight, such as the luggage compartment under a
bus. Motorbike thefts are a frequent occurrence, with thieves sometimes forcing
other motorbikes to crash in order to steal the bike. Robberies have occurred
at ATMs; avoid ATMs inside hotels, banks, or other enclosed spaces. These
crimes, along with other forms of petty thievery, continue at critical levels;
resistance is often met with escalating violence. Residential burglaries in
areas where foreigners live continue to present a threat. In at least two
recent instances, authorities caught a burglar attempting a second burglary of
the same residence.
crimes, including assault and sexual violence, do occur. There were a number of
reports of shootings and stabbings during 2019. While most of the victims of
violent crime are Cambodian, foreigners have also been victims. Excessive
consumption of alcohol or use of illegal drugs could make you more vulnerable
to becoming a victim of a crime, especially at night. In the event of an armed
confrontation, immediately hand over the property and attempt to leave the area
to avoid escalation or injury.
National and transnational organized crime
involving drug, wildlife, and human trafficking continues to be a problem in
Cambodia. The port city of Sihanoukville continues to see a significant rise in
Chinese influence and residents with large property investments, including
hotels and casinos catering to Chinese tourists. The number of Chinese citizens
who were both perpetrators and victims of crime continued to rise in 2019.
Crimes of theft, assault, kidnapping, and murder have all occurred. Following a
crackdown in Chinese-run online gambling parlors in Sihanoukville in late 2019,
crime levels appear to have dropped. It is unclear if this trend will continue.
Cambodia is a dollarized economy; fake U.S.
currency continues to be an issue. Several U.S. nationals, including official U.S.
government travelers, have reported receiving fake $100 bills from ATMs and
currency exchange booths. The bills are also referred to as “ghost money” and
are good color photocopies of actual $100 notes with the notation “Copy” or
“Novelty currency, not legal tender” added, making them novelty rather than
counterfeit bills. Local residents use these bills as offerings, especially
during Chinese New Year, and can buy them in bulk at local markets in Phnom
Penh. Always immediately inspect and feel the bills you receive from an ATM,
bank, exchange booth, or store to make sure that they are genuine. Immediately
photographed any fake bills coming from an ATM as evidence, along with your ATM
receipt and a photo of the victim standing at the ATM, then 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 attempting 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. Review OSAC’s
reports, The Overseas Traveler’s
Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud, and Taking Credit.
have been occasional reported incidents that thieves spike foreigners’ drinks
in some establishments to incapacitate victims in order to rob or assault them.
While the problem does not appear widespread in Cambodia, exercise caution,
especially if out drinking alone. Review OSAC’s report, Shaken: The Don'ts of Alcohol Abroad
areas of Phnom Penh or Cambodia are off limits for U.S. Embassy personnel.
The Chinese government provides both a significant level of
surveillance technology and cyber security training needed to the Cambodian
government. The Cambodian government has been extremely receptive to this type
of assistance and is highly likely to adopt many of the practices and
technologies currently used by China today. This includes 5G technology
provided by Huawei. This may result in security vulnerabilities that allow for
increased monitoring of local citizens as well as foreign nationals. Given this
risk, network security managers, and those responsible for digital and cyber
security, should familiarize themselves with the digital environment in the
country to ensure they have a good understanding of their physical and
cybersecurity posture. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics,
Best Practices for
Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile
Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones:
Critical or Contraband?
Road Safety and Road Conditions
in Cambodia can be hazardous. Drivers widely ignore traffic laws and police only
haphazardly enforce them. Drivers routinely run red lights and stop signs,
drive the wrong way down one-way streets, and frequently fail to use headlights
after dark. The city streets are crowded with cars, tuk tuks, and large numbers of moto scooters weaving unpredictably
through traffic, creating hazards. Many streets have poorly lighting. While
Phnom Penh has sidewalks, parked vehicles or food stands usually occupy them, increasing
the danger by forcing pedestrians to walk in the streets.
traffic accidents are quite common in Phnom Penh. In general, traffic moves
very slowly in Phnom Penh 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.
in the countryside can also be hazardous, and emergency medical care is limited
in availability. Moto scooters, pedestrians, slow moving trucks, and sometimes
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 may not drive after dark outside of major population centers. Review
OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques; and read the State
Department’s webpage on driving and road safety
Public Transportation Conditions
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 ride-sharing 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 app provides the
additional security measure of identifying the fare (in advance), the vehicle,
the driver, and the passenger’s progress along their intended route. The Embassy
encourages staff to use these apps for these reasons. However, continually
monitoring your route using a phone risks making the phone vulnerable to theft.
Maintain situational awareness if using a phone to monitor your route. 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. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit:
Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
are no specific security concerns with Phnom Penh’s international airport (PNH).
Fixed-price taxi service from the airport, currently $15-$20 to downtown Phnom
Penh, is reliable and safe. The U.S. Embassy is not aware of scams or problems
with theft at the airport. There were several reports of travelers arriving at the
airport 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 Phnom Penh.
Other Travel Conditions
plying the rivers or to traveling to islands off the coast, only take ferries
with enough life jackets for each passenger. Regardless of the mode of
transportation, watch your belongings closely. The safety record of ferries
seems to have improved in recent years, but overcrowding and lack of life
jackets for all passengers remains a concern. The U.S. Embassy does not
prohibit Embassy personnel from using ferries, but advises caution.
U.S. Department of State has assessed Phnom Penh as being a LOW-threat location for terrorism
directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. No local,
regional, or international terrorist groups pose a specific threat to Cambodia
or to U.S. government interests in Cambodia. However, terrorist groups
including ISIS, al-Qa'ida, their associates, and those inspired by such
organizations are intent on attacking U.S. citizens wherever they are. Extremists
may use conventional or non-conventional weapons to target U.S. government and
is no specific anti-U.S. or anti-Western sentiment among the population in
Cambodia. The Cambodian public generally views the United States favorably, and
there have been no incidents of anti-U.S. protests in Phnom Penh in the last
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Phnom Penh as being a MEDIUM-threat
location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S.
government interests. The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has been in
power for over 39 years, for 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, treason, and defamation. Provincial governments have stifled political
debate by refusing to grant permits for civil society and opposition party
members to demonstrate or gather. Following
local elections in 2017, in which the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party
(CNRP) came close to winning a majority of votes, the Cambodian government
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 many independent media outlets.
Cambodian government’s banning of the CNRP effectively removed any meaningful
opposition to the CPP in advance of the 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. 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.
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 draw attention to a specific grievance, such as working conditions in
garment factories, land seizures, or the arrest of opposition party figures or
journalists. The government has responded in numbers significant enough to
prevent violence. 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. Since then, for every event with the potential to trigger civil
unrest, such as the 2017 commune elections, the arrest of Kem Sokha, or the
banning of the CNRP, the government threatened, or deployed, similar displays
of force designed to quell any real protest. There were no significant
incidents of civil unrest in 2019. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
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 nationals coming to Cambodia
is creating the possibility of ethnic tension in the future. Many Cambodians
are concerned over the rise of Chinese influence and residents in Cambodia.
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, both from wild animals and stray dogs. 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, able to test an animal for rabies.
Land mines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) exist
in remote, rural areas throughout Cambodia, 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. Do not touch anything
that resembles a mine or UXO. Any traveler finding possible UXO should notify
the Cambodia Mine Action Center at 012-800-473/023-995-437.
roads and bridges in major cities are generally in good shape. However, local
construction sites do not follow U.S. safety standards when it comes to the
moving and storage of construction equipment. Exercise extra caution around
construction sites. The further you get from the cities, the more road and
bridge conditions deteriorate. Those traveling by vehicle should carry a
full-size spare, and the basic equipment to perform a “self-recovery” if the
vehicle becomes stuck.
are hotels of varying costs in Phnom Penh, from inexpensive backpacker hostels
to upscale five-star international chains. In many cases, hotels and hostels do
not meet Western fire codes or standards. Learn the location of fire exits and
walk the path of the emergency escape route to ensure you are familiar with the
route and that there are no obstacles to an emergency exit. Review
OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and
Outs, Considerations for
Hotel Security, and
Fire Safety Abroad.
of intellectual property rights remains a concern in Cambodia. Counterfeit
goods of all kinds are available. Most banks in Phnom Penh can exchange U.S.
dollars for Cambodian riel, but exchange is not always necessary; U.S. dollars
are accepted everywhere in Phnom Penh, with small change provided in riel. Some
counterfeit U.S. bills have circulated in Phnom Penh in the past year.
Cambodian government has demonstrated that it is fully capable of performing
surveillance, and surveils political opposition groups. U.S. private-sector
organizations should have no expectation of privacy, which makes the discussion
of proprietary or sensitive information difficult. Protect all financial
and personal information. Do not discuss travel plans or other business in an
open venue. Be alert to any unusual surveillance or activity near the places
you visit frequently. Vary your routes and times.
Personal Identity Concerns
there is tacit acceptance of individuals with different sexual orientations,
races, nationalities, genders, and disabilities. Women walking alone in some
parts of the city have reported receiving unwanted attention and, on at least
one occasion, unwanted physical contact. Sexual assaults involving foreigners
have occurred recently. Women should avoid traveling alone to remote areas such
as into the jungle or islands. There have been reports of sexual assaults near
drinking establishments and the possible use of date rape drugs to incapacitate
female travelers. There have been reports of sexual assault of both foreigners
and locals. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for female travelers.
there are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the
organization of LGBTI events in Cambodia, same sex marriage is not legal. While
Cambodians are relatively tolerant toward foreigners, LGBTI Cambodians
routinely face discrimination and harassment, especially outside major urban
areas. Cambodians generally frown upon public displays of affection for couples
of any sexual orientation. Review the State Department’s
webpage on security for LGBTI+
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 that have been 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. Review
the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers
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. nationals, have
received prison sentences for drug-related crimes.
kidnapping and extortion schemes exist in Cambodia, with Cambodians being the
majority of kidnappers and victims. In 2019, several kidnapping cases involved
Chinese victims and perpetrators. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics.
capability, responsiveness, and professionalism are substandard compared to
that in the United States. Police units are often under-funded, under-staffed,
poorly equipped or trained, and suffer from limited resources and corruption. Many
crimes go unreported or forgo full investigation. Police often cite a lack of
adequate transportation as an excuse for slow response. Few police officers
speak English. In the event that a foreigner is the victim of a robbery, it is
unlikely that the police will recover the stolen property. Different divisions
of the Cambodian National Police wear tan or green uniforms. Cambodian traffic
police wear blue uniforms.
of traffic regulations is often haphazard or a means to solicit bribes. Police
will often signal motorists to pull over and pay a spot fine. Low pay and low
morale create an environment in which even bribes of a few dollars can make
allegations disappear. Do not pay bribes, and do not comply with requests to
pay on-the-spot fines.
officer persists, comply with instructions, identify yourself as a U.S. citizen,
and obtain the officer’s name and badge number. Politely ask to speak with a
supervisor and/or request they take you to police headquarters for further
processing. Police must notify the Embassy when arresting or detaining a U.S.
citizen; however, delayed notifications are common. If arrested, assert this
right and request to speak with a representative from the U.S. Embassy by
emergency line in PHNOM PENH is 119.
Download the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
2017, the Cambodian government announced the creation of a national police
hotline for foreign nationals in Cambodia, staffed 24/7 with both 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
general, the Cambodian health care system has very low capacity for dealing
with emergency medical situations outside of major population centers. The
medical infrastructure in Phnom Penh continues to make incremental
improvements, but many gaps remain. 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 (e.g. opening an airway, 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 respond,
further compounding the potential for poor outcomes.
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 have poor
training, there is an inadequate system of credentialing, and there is very
little sub-specialty care (e.g. neonatal care, trauma surgery) even at
international medical facilities.
Find contact information for
available medical services and available air ambulance services on the U.S.
are strongly encouraged to carry comprehensive travelers’ insurance with medical
evacuation (medevac) capability, and to carry that proof of insurance on their
person while traveling. Let others in your traveling party know about the
insurance coverage and where they can find proof should you be unconscious or
otherwise unable to serve as your own healthcare advocate. Review the State
Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.
Country-specific Vaccination and
to the CDC, travelers to Cambodia should receive vaccinations against Japanese
encephalitis, Hepatitis A, typhoid, and yellow fever. Avoid eating street food
in Phnom Penh. Avoid tap water and ice cubes outside of urban areas. Review
OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way,
Medication, I’m Drinking What in My
Water?, Shaken: The Don’ts of
Alcohol Abroad, Health 101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad
offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Cambodia.
OSAC Country Council Information
Cambodia Country Council launched in 2019. Interested private-sector security
managers should contact OSAC’s East Asia Pacific team with
any questions or to join.
U.S. Embassy Contact Information
#1, St. 96
(entrance on St. 51 between St. 96 and 102), Phnom Penh
Hours of Operation: Monday through Friday 0800-1700
Operator: +855-23-728-402, 051
Emergency calls after normal business hours: +855-23-728-000
American Citizen Services Section: ACSPhnompenh@state.gov
State Department Emergency Line:
Before you travel, consider the following resources: