11 ways to get arrested in Cambodia


Money may still talk in Cambodia, but there are a few things that are going to buy you a ticket straight to jail – or bankrupt you in the pay-off process. Here are 11 ways to get yourself arrested during a trip to Cambodia.

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Buying drugs

A common misconception is that drugs – especially cannabis, thanks to the smattering of “happy pizza” joints – are legal in Cambodia. They aren’t, and if you’re caught with them – depending on the drug and quantities – you’ll either end up behind bars or have to offer a hefty bribe to steer clear of a spell in the country’s notoriously grim prisons.

Get into a drunken brawl with locals

It bodes well to remember you’re a visitor to this country, and the bounty of smiles can quickly turn into snarls if you try to mess with a local. While this is more likely to get you seriously beaten than put behind bars, if the police turn up, you’ll find yourself in trouble. A common error booze-fuelled tourists make, which gets them into fights, is trying to short-change a tuk tuk driver. Don’t do it.

Buddist artefacts in cambodia via FivePrime.org

Strip off at Angkor Wat

Here’s an activity that may see you escape time behind bars, but it will definitely result in you getting arrested and sharply booted out of the country, as several Westerners discovered. In 2015, a series of episodes saw five tourists strip down to their birthday suits and pose for photos at the sacred site. Another definite no-no in this predominantly Buddhist country.

A drink-driving road smash

Again, this is more likely to result in you praying for the police to put in an appearance since, more often than not, you’ll find yourself quickly surrounded by an angry mob of locals. If you’re lucky and no one is hurt, you will find yourself having to pay for any damage caused – both for vehicles and to appease those involved, as well as any police who turn up. If someone has been seriously injured, then you’ll find yourself in much more trouble.

Messing about with kids

While this is an act that should get you knocked about wherever you are in the world, Cambodia’s lack of child protection measures sadly make it a haven for sex offenders. Despite this, this is rightfully an offence that Cambodia takes extremely seriously, with dedicated units working tirelessly alongside organisations, such as APLE Cambodia, dedicated to eradicating the crime and ensuring perpetrators are prosecuted.

Selling drugs

While you may be able to get away with a fine for possession of a small amount of weed, selling the stuff – or, worse, harder drugs – is going to land you with a stretch behind bars. Just ask the many foreigners spending time in Prey Sar prison after being caught.

Stealing religious artefacts

It’s illegal to take ancient religious artefacts out of Cambodia, so you’ll quickly find yourself in trouble with customs if you’ve managed to buy one from the black market. In 2015, five locals were sentenced to seven years in prison after stealing Buddhist relics.

A motorbike drink-driving road smash via Arrive Alive

Vandalising religious artefacts

This is another act that will land you in serious trouble and should be avoided at all costs, as should anything that can be regarded as derogatory to Buddha, such as defacing pictures. While this probably won’t see you put in prison, it will land you in a lot of trouble. In 2014, a Dutch woman avoided arrest by leaving the country after destroying a statue at Angkor Wat, which she claimed was “fake” and “didn’t belong there.”


Con artists are rampant across Cambodia – and usually come in the form of foreigners. From those who have way over-stayed their visa trying to blag some cash from innocent tourists to more elaborate plots hatched by criminal gangs. Either way, get caught and you’ll get locked up.

Not Paying Your Tab

Again, if you’re caught stealing, you’ll probably end up praying for the police to save you, because public justice is commonly served in Cambodia. A mistake often made by travellers is running up tabs at guesthouses and eateries and not paying. Cambodians’ vast network of connections ensures many are caught and face nasty consequences.


Another common misconception by foreigners is that Cambodia is the Wild West, where anything goes. This attitude will quickly land you in trouble so apply the same rules as you would back home. Remain respectful, remember where you are, and stay safe. Because the worst way for your holiday to end is with a spell in jail.

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