Normally I will walk hands in hands with my sisters and enjoy the view of the moving crowds during the festival. But this time, I plucked my courage and went on my own by bike. Surprisingly, less people than I expected turned up, walking on the streets. I thought that perhaps this year the public order was kept well by the municipal authority. While I was thinking highly of the authority, suddenly I spotted a temporary road barrier placed at the side road on my left handside, where several military police were guarding. Not only this one, but each side road had its own. The message was clear; no motorbikes or cars were allowed in. But I saw a few bikes passing through and I was wondering how they could do. The answer was obvious. Money!
“Hey, little girl, just spend some money and you can get past this,” a young military police kindly said to me. In my pocket, I didn’t have change of 1,000 Riel but one dollar. It was unreasonable to spend one dollar just to travel on a public road the government has to build for their own citizens. And if they really were ordered to keep public order by banning all vehicles inside, several other vehicles that had gone should not have been let in!!! I would listen if they had been doing their job.
Endeavoring to be a corrupt-free person, I didn’t want to submit to their need. 1,000 Riel was not a big deal, but I did not want to increase the corruption rate in Cambodia. But the pressuring from the bike people behind me kept me dizzy. I resorted to the same way other people had just done. I shamelessly escaped through the road barrier and happily thought the problem was over. But something in my guts told me that it wouldn’t stop here. Another small group of police were waiting for me; I was sure they were.
I went near one of the police and tiredly asked him ‘how much?’. I hoped he did understand my message that I sarcastically asked if they would become a Riel millionair after tonight. He looked at me without blinking. I knew it was a ridiculous remark from me. Another passenger holding his daughter’s hand was chuckling. Perhaps, he heard me and that’s why the police guy was staring at me calmly. My message to him was crystal-clear. “Please think and think again if you like what you are doing.”