In my shoes

October 10, 2013

I was planning to write this week about my love of the Khmer people, their cheerful generosity, their friendly nature, their boundless enthusiasm for life. But then one of them tried to beat me up, and another stole my shoes.

I was coming back from a night out with an old friend, and my tuk-tuk driver demanded twice the usual fare, thinking, perhaps, that I was a tourist and therefore here to be fleeced. I told him, perhaps somewhat abruptly, precisely where he could stick it, and he then tried to physically extort it from me. This was a guy perhaps slightly over five feet tall, and spindly, so I flung him into the street, and nipped though my gates. My security guard told me that he was extremely drunk. He shouted imprecations over the gates for a few minutes, then was led away. Not a problem, precisely, but a bit troubling.

I then went upstairs, to find that someone had stolen my best shoes.

I bought them back in the UK a couple of months ago, a pair of nice and not inexpensive black leather cap-toe Oxfords, which I kept on the shoe rack outside my front door.

Now we, for those of you unfamiliar with our domestic arrangements [too many of you; come to Cambodia!], we live on the next to top floor of our building, and we’re the only flat on the floor. Therefore, the only foot traffic our floor sees is people coming or going from the roof. So it must have been someone doing something on the roof. As I don’t suspect the French couple who live up there of nicking the shoes, they must have had someone come past our door, see them, and decide to nick them.

What they didn’t consider was that there is a security camera on the ground floor. The landlord’s daughter has promised to look at the footage and report back. I don’t suppose I’ll ever see the shoes again, but we might find out who did the deed, and get some measure of justice.

That said, Cambodian justice can be a bit more basic than we’re used to in the West. Living here, one is often told, if you’re in a traffic accident, to run away: if you stick around, you’re likely to be beaten to death by angry mobs, no matter who’s at fault. I refused to believe this at first, but reading the papers, it turns out to be true. Thieves are regularly beaten up by crowds: justice is done by the mob.

And while I wouldn’t, on the whole, want to see the shoe thief beaten to a pulp, I can understand the impulse.


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