Passports Stolen in Cambodia

Sunday 2nd May 2010 (Part 1)

You may want to sit back, put your feet up and relax for this next blog, as it may take a while!

Sunday 2nd May at 8.30pm, me and Paul left the Asia Hotel, in Phnom Penh, to go to get something to eat.

We were heading towards the river front. We had been walking for about 5 minutes, when we got to Preah NorodomBoulevard. We stood on the pavement waiting to cross the road. We stood forward getting ready to cross. Then I noticed in the corner of my left eye that a motorbike with 2 people on, was coming very close to me. I tried to stand back quickly, but before I could, I was knocked back. Paul started running, as he could see they had taken something from me and also thought that they had hit me. I quickly noticed that they had my bag in there hand. I started running up the road and shouted to Paul.

They have my bag, and it has our passports in!

I was running behind Paul as fast as I could. I was shouting help and I finally came across some young guys on motorbikes, from Cambodia, who stopped. They didn’t speak much English, but they were able to understand that my bag had been stolen.

Paul was still running at this point. He got close to them, and could see that they had turned right at the lights, but he couldn’t keep up. They were on a motorbike after all!

The young guys told us to get on their bikes. They told us they would try and help us find them. I guess we didn’t know weather we could trust them or not, but at this point, we didn’t know what else to do. We got onto their motorbike and followed in the direction that the thieves had gone. They were well out of sight by now and the chances of finding them were small.

They drove us to the nearest police station. The police didn’t speak much English, so the young guys explained what had happened. I’m not sure why, but they were unable to help with the situation. I thought that’s what police were for, but I was wrong.

They continued to drive us around. They took us to a man on the street who spoke good English. He told us that going to the police wouldn’t help much, but that we should go to the British Embassy first thing in the morning. He tried to reassure us and tell us everything would be ok.

We started to realise that looking for them wasn’t going to help much. So we asked if they could take us back to our hotel. They kindly drove us back to the Asia Hotel and we thanked them for all their help.

I had shouted for help so many times. So many people just stopped and starred, but these guys genuinely wanted to help. That meant a lot to us!

We got back to the hotel about 9.30pm. I was feeling very distraught. I was crying wondering what we were going to do. No one, not even the police seemed to be able to tell us what we could do.

In my bag was mine and Paul’s passports, my wallet with all my bank cards, driving licence in. A few coins, but not much money at all, maybe 2-3 pounds in total, which was good. Also my IPod touch was in the bag, and a few other things which I couldn’t remember at the time.

It was annoying loosing my IPod Touch, but our passports were the main thing! We couldn’t go anywhere without them.

I tried to hold back the tears as I explained to the hotel what had happened. They listened and replied by saying,

We have a safe deposit box for each room, here in reception, for you to keep passports and belongings in.

I was thinking, well thanks for telling me that now. That knowledge would of been good before we went out!

One of the hotel staff could see I was crying and came over with a tissue. He said to Paul,

Tell your wife not to worry, this happens all the time in Cambodia. Passports are stolen a lot!

This wasn’t helping either, or making the situation any better! We just wanted to report it to the police an see if anything could be done. We asked one of the members of staff to call the Police for us, he said it was late and would be better if we waited till the morning. It was only 9.30pm. We didn’t want to wait till tomorrow. I asked again, making it quite clear that we wanted to speak with a police officer tonight. He finally listened and called the police. A police officer was at the hotel within 10 minutes.

He took down the details of the incident and said that if we wanted the police to deal with it, we would have to go to the police office either tonight or tomorrow. We said tonight. The member of staff from the hotel was translating for us, as the police officer didn’t speak much English. He told us that no translator was available till the morning. We didn’t know what he was translating, but he said that the police officer had said it would be best to go in the morning at 7.30am. We agreed, not knowing what else we could do!

The police officer told the member of staff to write down the address of the police station. He gave a card top Paul with the address on. Paul decided to check with the police officer if this was the correct address. He shook his head and went over to him. I’m not sure what had happened as they were speaking Khmer. I guess he had wrote the wrong address down or something, as the police officer scribbled the address down and wrote the correct address down.

The police officer took Paul on his motorbike to show him the police station and also got Paul to point out where the bag had been stolen from.

I went up to the hotel room waiting for Paul to return. I was hoping and praying that a miracle would happen, and that he would return with my bag with everything in, but he returned with only his broken flip flop, that had fallen off his foot when he was running after the thief’s.

We both sat in the room wondering what we were going to do. We finally pulled ourselves together and managed to do the essential things. I rang up to cancel both my debit cards. Then I also realised that they had my Ipod Touch, which had my hotmail, facebook, skype and several other things on. So I changed the password on all my accounts. I noticed that I had an extra contact on my skype account, so they must of signed in for a while, but I managed to change the passwords before they could.

We then looked up all the details about what to do if you loose your passport. We found out where the British Embassy was in Phnom Penh, but there was no Irish Embassy. The closest Irish Embassy was Hanoi, in Vietnam. Paul would need to apply for an exit visa from Cambodia, a temporary passport and then he would need to go to Hanoi to get his full passport. I needed to go to the British Embassy in Phom Penh and apply for a new passport, which costs $202 andcan take up to 30 days to receive. Then I would need to apply for a new Cambodian Visa to exit the country, which costs $45 (even though the visa I originally had only cost $20). So in total it would cost us both around $500 for new passports andexit visas. Plus it would take around 4 weeks to get out of Cambodia and then a further 2-4 weeks in Hanoi, for Paul’s full passport.

When we read all of this, we started to loose hope, thinking we would just have to go home. As it was going to cost so much.

We finally went to bed around 1 am knowing we had to be up early in the morning to go to the police station. It was not a good night sleep however, worrying about what was going to happen tomorrow!

Click here to read part 2

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