One of this columnist’s earliest experiences of Cambodia, perhaps a week or so after he arrived, was of a mob. Hitching a ride with a motodop, we pulled up near what at first seemed a standard traffic accident, the kind that becomes routine when you live in Phnom Penh for some time. From a safe distance, which my driver insisted on, I could see an injured man lying on the pavement, I think some blood flowing from him, and perhaps 20 people surrounding him.
At first, I thought this might have been the injured motorcyclist. A skeletal Honda lay sideways in the road. Instead, I learned, after my driver made a quick inquiry, that the prostrate man was actually the driver of the SUV that had collided with the motorcyclist, who seemed to have disappeared somewhere. The driver had been stopped by the mob after trying to flee the scene, bundled out of the vehicle, and then beaten. And then the beating started again. Punches from the crowd rained down. Not many, but enough for the scene to become menacing. I recall a pot-bellied man pacing across the street in order to land a kick. Then the police arrived, the crowd dispersed and my driver insisted we move on.