Invasion of the Bag Snatchers in Phnom Penh

If you’ve been to a backpacker ghetto anywhere in the world, you’ve seen them. For fear of having their belongings snatched, they guard their bags carefully. Perhaps wearing their rucksacks in the front and wrapping an arm around it for extra security. That might seem like overdoing it. After all, who is going to rob a backpack with a bunch of smelly clothes and out of date edition of Lonely Planet?

But the ease with which a practiced thief can snatch a bag is surprising. All two thieves on a motorcycle, perhaps with a razor blade, need to do is slice a strap or grab a purse or camera and pull hard. Then it’s bye-bye dirty clothes (or camera or passport or cash).

Bag snatching is on the rise in southeast Asian cities like Phnom Penh. It has always been a problem, but things are especially bad now that inflation has put the economy into a downward spin. Some thieves have completely abandoned the timeless art of bag snatching, and instead simply knock their victims off their motorbikes and make off with the loot before the unfortunate rider(s) can recover. Looks like it might take more than wearing your pack in the front to avoid a nasty situation these days. But that’s all part of the fun of travel, isn’t it?