Saturday, June 21, 2014

Racism in Cambodia/Nights Out in Phnom Penh: Being asked to pay the bill at Gunpoint + Being turned away from Pontoon Nightclub

Hey lovelies, so yeah, remember when I said I'll be writing a series titled 'Nights out in Phnom Penh' just to give an idea of what the expat night life in PP is like? Yeah well last night my friends and I had a not so awesome night out. I really wish this post was about the awesome night out I had last Saturday  (14th June), my friends and I went bar hopping before ending up at CodeREd Nightclub where the Stanton Warriors were playing that night- Epic night by the way.



 I really wish this post was about last Wednesday (18th June) where I attended an event called Laughing Out Loud, at the same venue- CodeREd-which was organised by my Nigerian friend and basically brought a lot of Africans and other expats (but mostly black Africans) together for a night of performances, music and dance followed by some serious dancing to African beats on the dance floor after the event.


 I really wish this post was about this past Friday (2oth June) which was my friend's birthday and we did dinner, drinks and a little dancing at CodeRed then Pontoon Night clubs, but noooo, this is a post about last night- Saturday 21st June 2014 where my night out was interrupted by some really horrible shit here in Phnom Penh Cambodia.

Yesterday was my friend's birthday (let's call her Jane)- she's a black African, and she booked a Cambodian restaurant as the venue to have the party at. This venue is around the Russian Market area although I do not know it's name as it is written in Khmer. It is popular with Africans for some reason, coz this was the 3rd time I was here for an African party. Anyway I get there, and first thing I noticed was that there was a big group of Cambodians eating and drinking on one side of the restaurant, and then the Africans drinking on the other side. I thought that was weird coz the two previous times I had been here the whole place was booked out ..but anyway. I later asked Jane what's the deal with Africans one side and Cambodians the other lol and she said that she had booked out the place, but when she asked the owners what's up with the group of Cambodians, the owner had said that she only booked half the restaurant so they booked out the other half to these Cambodians haha. Jane was not happy about this coz she was under the impression that she booked out the whole place for a few hours. So she asks why then did she pay full price for half a restaurant and the owners say that the price she paid was for half the restaurant haha( No seriously this is some ridiculous funny shit though, right? ) Now we all knew that that was not true since one of our other friends who had booked out this place previously for a party was there, so she could tell us what amount she paid for the whole venue, but she also said that these were definitely not the owners she dealt with during her probably new owners...Anyway we all tell Jane to calm down and that it doesn't matter coz we are still going to have a good time. Everything calmed down but later when the DJ started to play African music(which was part of the deal)  and the owners refused haha. And what's an African party with no African music right?After talking to them they said ok ok play your fucking music haha. and after that the night was awesome. We ate, drunk and danced and around 11.30 pm people started leaving, but myself and two other ladies were waiting for Jane so that we could all go somewhere else for some dancing. When the clock hit midnight (Jane had booked the place till midnight) the music stopped abruptly and I noticed a few mean looking Cambodians around. At this point there was only like 10 of us, five sat down at a table, Jane was sorting out the bill and the others had started packing up stuff. The mean looking Cambodians- 11 of them- yes I counted, came up to us sat at the table and one of them said that we should all get up and leave, and am like Ooooook? And so we stand up. And I realised these guys are fucking police men in plain clothes- coz I could see their guns and walkie talkies and shit. And one of them was in a green uniform and had a huge ass gun slung across his chest. These guys meant business haha.


So I quietly asked my friends, are these actual fucking policemen? Coz I was shocked, well Jane was definitely not having none of the intimidation, she said that it doesn't matter whether they were policemen coz she has done nothing wrong..which is true and all, but my ass was scared at this point. Long story short these guys basically started saying we should pay $50 for an outstanding bill, and Jane was all confused at what bill they were talking about because when she booked the place, they agreed on a package deal where the venue and amount of drinks was already discussed beforehand and a fixed price agreed upon with the owners of this place. And she had JUST paid that agreed upon fixed price like 2 seconds before all these and was even holding the receipt. They said that some people had ordered extra bottles of water!!Anyway these policemen were very nasty and threatening,especially the one who was doing all the talking-in very good English actually. And remember these are 11 men, 3 with hand guns in plain view, and one with a huge ass gun slung across his shoulder resting on his chest,which he now held with two hands as if ready for...God knows what?? Ok really this was getting ridiculous and dangerous, 6 black guys, 4 black girls unarmed, versus 11 Cambodian police men,4 of them with actual fucking guns??

I told Jane and the other black guys we were with that let's just pay the fucking $50 and get away from here...coz I was feeling all kinds of uncomfortable!!God. I remembered when I went to Bangkok a few years back, a similar scenario happened and that ended badly.Asian men,in my experience,are very timid people, so whenever I see them being all up in the face of a foreigner, I know they are pretty much ready for shit to go down. Mind you even the size alone of these two groups- the Cambodian policemen were short, thin and tiny, compared to my black guy friends who were all super tall and generally really big, wayyyy bigger than these Cambodians! At one point during the discussion the policeman shouted at one of the guys in front of him "Oh you look at me?? You look at me??" That was fucking scary and that was my cue to run and hide HAHA, so I literally started walking down the street and away from all of these, one of my  girlfriend saw me and followed me and I stood behind an SUV parked a few meters from where everyone else was. I was half expecting to hear gun shots. At this point, people have started getting out onto their balconies to look onto the street at all the commotion and I am completely scared something bad will happen. Anyway they get the $50 dollars and we all get in tuk tuks and leave.

I would like to say that, whatever, maybe people did actually order $50 worth of water during the few hours we were there, that's beside the point, the point is the way this whole thing was handled. Seriously? Calling 11 policemen on us? some of them armed with guns, being all nasty and threatening and intimidating? REally? I do not think that was necessary, especially considering that nothing actually happened- you know there was no fight that broke out, we did not get rowdy, nobody was drunk and unruly..I mean, this was sooo uncalled for. Also please note that nothing like this has happened in all my 5 years living in PP,so am thinking this is a fluke. No I am hoping to God that this was a one in a billion fluke.

I couldn't help but wonder, why were these policemen called on us? No like really, why? To extract $50 from us? REally? That amount seems so little, if they split it, it comes to about $5 each, yeah? And I couldn't help but wonder, if we were a group of chinese expats, would this have happened? If we were a group of white expats, would this have happened? Did they do this coz we were black? Has this ever happened to a group of white expats? ( It's happened to me twice now) Shit man..

WE did not let this put a damper in Jane's Birthday night plans so we head straight to Pontoon club on st 51, and guess what, as we are getting in line to pay the cover charge and go in, the security guys at the door tell us that the ladies can go in, but the men cannot!! Am like REALLY?? REALLLY!!! I ask the guy why not? And he says "Oh am sorry it's the rule of the club not to allow black men in." So I talk to this guy in Khmer- like they recognize me for sure, and he says to me, ok we can allow 2 men to go in, but only 2. So we decide, fuck that, we cross the street and go into Nomad bar where we were served really well...we danced our hearts out, played some pool and ended up having a lovely night after all. So all in all a very interesting night, don't you think?

But maaaaan, I had a "Why the fuck am I in Cambodia" moment like a million times that night.

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