How My Passport Was Stolen In Phnom Penh


It all went down on a tuk tuk ride. 

It’s taken me awhile to write this story of how our passports were stolen on the second day of New Year, in this city where I call my home. Losing a passport is one of my nightmare especially when it happens outside of Malaysia.

We just arrived from Vientiane, Laos and was very much happy to be back in Phnom Penh city on the second day of New Year. After grabbing our bags, we decided to take the airport tuk tuk home and this was when our nightmare began.

I knew that the airport tuk tuks are slower than the normal ones, and didn’t think anything unusual about it. That was until a man on a motorbike took my bag pack between my legs and ran off with it. I screamed and started crying because I was in shock. He not only only took both our passports, but also my Canon G11 camera which I’ve had for many years, purse with all the Malaysia identification card, driving license, bank cards, $40 cash and my Travel Journal.

After all the tears came a fitful of rage and I told the driver to bring us to the nearest police station. When I yelled thief, he just turned around and didn’t know what happened. He didn’t react either. He just explained that he will bring us to the police station to make a report.

Making a police report in Tuk Tekhla & identifying a non-suspect. 

When we arrived, I told them that I want the report so that I can bring it to the Malaysian Embassy. Hearing this, they asked a girl to write down the incident, asking me for my name, passport detail as well as phone number.

A Malaysian couple friend came to make sure we’re alright and I am forever thankful for their kindness. While waiting for the report to be ready, a policeman asked us to identify a young suspect who was standing beside his blue Honda Scoopy motorbike.

I informed them that this was not the guy who stole my passport, but they kept insisting that he was the one who did it. This innocent young man looked like he was on the way to colleague and had no clue what is happening. I continued to deny him as a suspect while the policeman insisted he was the thief.

Steps to take when losing your passport in Phnom Penh. 

We are lucky that there is  Malaysian Embassy in Phnom Penh where we could submit the police report and request for an Emergency Certificate (EC). Our Malaysian friend had also given us advice on what to prepare before heading to the Embassy.

Here are the steps we took in Phnom Penh before getting our new passport in Malaysia: 

  • Prepared 8 pieces of passport photos and brought along the original police report which was in Khmer. It’s better to have it translated in English before bringing it to the Embassy.
  • At the Malaysian Embassy, we filled up 3 sets of forms , submitted 2 pieces of passport photos, paid US$15 for the EC and a formal letter. We got the EC in an hours time, on the same day.
  • We then went to the Cambodia Immigration Ministry (opposite the Phnom Penh airport) and submitted our EC there for an exit visa. This cost us US$30 per passport.
  • The next day we came back to collected our EC with the exit visa stamp, allowing us to leave Phnom Penh within 2 weeks.

The process in getting the EC and exit visa was smooth and we were so happy to know that we’ll be able to go back to Malaysia to settle all the documentation. We had no problems exiting at the airport as we were only asked to fill in the departure form to go with the EC.

My one relief was that even though I had no access to my cash (ATM was stolen too), I have friends here who loaned me money for all the payment. If this happens when you have no cash in hand, reach out to the Malaysian Embassy or Malaysian in Cambodia FB community group for assistance. We’ll all be able to offer help when needed.

The Emergency Certificate (EC) allowed us to go home.


To all Malaysians, welcome home. 

I’ve never felt so glad in hearing these words announced during arrival. This passed when we were asked to go to the Immigration Office for questioning since we came in with a CE. We had to show them the letter from the Embassy and waited with other foreigners, for our letter. It took almost 2 hours because of the shift change and also there were many people waiting to be questioned.

During this time, we heard the officers asking standard questions like “Why are you here?”, “How much money do you have with you?” and “Who is waiting for you here?”. Some came without money and this made them a suspect of illegal employment.

We finally got our letter and release from the office. The officer informed us that we had to stay 1 month in Malaysia before we could apply for a new passport. We explained that we are employees in Cambodia therefore it is not possible for us to stay for a month (as much as I wanted to). We decided to take the letted and think of another option.

By the time we reached home, it was already midnight.

Steps to take in renewing your passport & IC in Malaysia. 

We spent the next 2 days going back and forth to the  Immigration Department of Malaysia in Putrajaya. These were the steps we took to renew the passport in Malaysia:

  • Prepare police report, letter from Embassy and money.
  • Our Identification Card is important when applying for any new documents in Malaysia. Without it, nothing much can be done. Since I lost mine, this was the first thing that I needed to do.
  • Apply for new IC at the National Registration Department (Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara). Since I had report saying it was stolen, I didn’t have to pay any fees for the new IC and got it within an hour.
  • Met with the Immigration Officer and made an appeal since this was the first time we lost our passports.
  • Submitted the police report, the letter from Embassy to apply for new passport. After many hours, our application went through and we paid RM300 each for the renewal.

Putrajaya is the best place to get things done since all the headquarters are located here.


Coming back to Phnom Penh with a new passport.

Within 4 days, I managed to settle my new bank cards, driving license and other documents that were stolen. I am relieved that this whole nightmare is over. When I entered Phnom Penh, it took awhile for the Immigration Officer to check my new passport before remarking “This is your third passport, you must be very busy lady” before letting me pass through.

I’ve learned my lesson here and to always be alert when traveling anywhere in the world. I had assumed that looking like a local would make me invincible from the thieves, and I was wrong.

If this happens to you while traveling in any country, here are a few advice you can look into:

  • Don’t panic.
  • Get all the details of the incident and make sure it is reported accurately in the police report.
  • Find the nearest Malaysian Embassy and contact them for information on how to get a CE.
  • If you’re short of money, get advice from the Embassy on how to transfer payment to them for the CE and for other processes (exit visa).

I hope the information and story above will be useful to you if the same situation happened. As for me, I stopped taking the tuk tuk or taxi from the airport and use the app instead. Here’s to a brighter and all-star New Year ahead.

The last one at the Immigration hall, waiting for my new passport.

About Yafieda Jamil

A Malaysian girl currently working abroad in Phnom Penh city. I love a good road trip, hot cappuccinos, spicy food and staring at old buildings. My mission is to inspire people to see the world differently before we all get any older. Oh and giraffes are the most beautiful creatures on earth.

6 Responses to How My Passport Was Stolen In Phnom Penh

  1. Alyssa Jaren says:

    That is so unfortunate! I’m glad you reacted to it well, I saw bags being taken away from tuk tuks right infront of my eyes back when I was in Phnom Penh in 2014. And my friend’s bag got snatched right in front of our hostel too. I’ve been paranoid ever since and practically hugged my bags everywhere.

    Did you had travel insurance when it happens? So sorry about the camera. I would cry too 🙁

    • fienuts says:

      Hi Alyssa!

      I was in shock and cried when it happened because the passports were so valuable compared to whatever else were in the bag! Calming down made me come back to my senses and after this whole incident, I’ve taken extra precautions of my bags in this city. Snatch thieves activity is picking up unfortunately and it’s always good to stay safe. Sorry about your friend, I hope he/she didn’t get hurt after the bag was snatched. I didn’t have get any travel insurance because I assumed traveling to a neighboring country would be okay. I should definitely get that next time! 🙂

  2. Ash says:

    Thank you for the tip. Call me paranoid but the thought of losing my passport is a nightmare!

    • fienuts says:

      Hi Ash,

      Yes I am superbly paranoid when it comes to losing my passport in another country.
      It makes a lot of things difficult. So keep it safe with you all the time 🙂

  3. Yes, this story is useful. You have nice friends, Yafieda. Have a safe and better 2017!

    • fienuts says:

      Hi Agness,

      Thanks for reading and I’m glad it’s useful for future reference.
      Yes, I look forward to having a better 2017!

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