The guy in the photo is Seyha, that’s him with his mother, and he’s quite simply the best tuk-tuk driver in the whole of Cambodia. At least I think so.
The day after this photo was taken, last October, we were travelling out to Angkor Wat when the heavens opened and the rain was so heavy Seyha pulled off the road and we took shelter on the roadside, Seyha, Ray – a wonderful Australian – and me. The sun was going down and evening was settling in. We all shivered in the dark, waiting for the rain to stop. Seyha stayed busy, his t-shirt soaked through, making calls and sending txts from his smart phone which serves as his lifeline.
I saw Seyha each day because he sleeps over at Savong’s guest house in a kind of informal security guard role.
Most places in Cambodia seem to have security guards to keep an eye on things and deter those with ‘sticky fingers’ as Cambodians describe it. Shops have guards at the door, schools have a guard or two to keep an eye on bicycles. They’re paid from a lowly $70 a month, working 6 days a week on 12 hour days, up to around $160 per month with bonuses at New Year and Pchum Ben. The price is worth it. Sticky fingers can strike anywhere.
Including the pillow of a sleeping night watchman.
Seyha woke up one morning to find that a thief had snuck-in and stolen his $200 smart-phone from where it rested as he slept: right near his head. I assumed he’d never see his phone again. Who could be so audacious as to commit a theft so brazen?
The answer came on CCTV footage. The reception area where Seyha slept was covered by a CCTV camera, and going through the captured footage was an exercise of patience and suspense. Movement! No, that was just a cat.
More movement. Seyha’s phone, set to silent, but glowing as somebody tries to phone. Time-stamp 12:30am.
And then…there he is! The thief appears. Striped shirt, furtive, he reaches out for the phone and makes a hasty retreat. To me he looks anonymous – he could be any Cambodian. “No he’s not,” growls Seyha. “I know him – the little shit!”
I wasn’t there when Seyha confronted Mister Sticky-fingers Striped Shirt, but Seyha successfully recovered his phone and threatened to take the miscreant to the police. In all, it was a high-tech outcome to a low-tech crime. And a reminder to me why there are guards everywhere in Cambodia.
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