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How Safe Is Too Safe

Billy Otter / Khmer Times No Comments Share:
An example of the lengths some hotel guests will go to ensure security in lower budget hotels. (KT Photo: Billy Otter)

PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) – You’ve come back to your hotel room to discover your door is locked from the inside. First,  momentary confusion. Then, a sudden realization: someone has gotten in and your possessions are in danger of disappearing. A confrontation is looming.

This scenario played out during a visitor’s recent stay in Phnom Penh. He is a regular visitor to the city, and Asia in general, so he is well aware of the threat of theft. James – not his real name –  always takes extra precautions in regards to hotel security when checking in.

He only stays at hotels where the rooms have wooden wardrobes without sliding doors. This allows him to fasten the wardrobe’s door handles together with a padlock and chain that he acquires locally. 

In this case, he had gone a step further by purchasing a pad-lockable sliding bolt latch to use in conjunction with his usual modus operandi. Management agreed to its installation on the wardrobe, giving him some extra peace of mind.

James is a large man, so he decided to go on the offensive when he heard intruders in his room. Knowing their only escape was a three floor drop, he issued threats. When the door opened,  he found two members of the hotel’s cleaning staff in his room.

Excuses were given, but James could see that someone had tampered with the screws on the sliding lock. Inspite of all his precautions, he had forgotten a screwdriver in the desk drawer, giving rise to temptation.

After the incident, James added another layer of security, installing two eye screws  above the latch on the wardrobe to run a chain through. The new lock doubled his sense of security.

The hotel was very cooperative regarding their guest’s complaint and concern. When James returned to the hotel after going out to purchase his next level of security – different colors of wax in the screw-heads to detect tampering – he found the manager in talks with the perpetrators. 

Ream Vichet, chief of the Phnom Penh Tourist Police, explains that the problem of theft is related to the price of the accommodation. 

“We never get complaints from luxury hotels, only guesthouses,” he said. “A lot of the problems come because people steal to buy drugs.” 

He noted, however, that the number of complaints received this year has dropped. 

In the end, the hotel fired one of the would-be thieves, and suspended the other. James was satisfied with the outcome, as he had suspected one of them to be a less than willing participant, while the other appeared to be the instigator. 

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