PHNOM PENH (Khmer Times) –Motorcycle gangs elicit images of tattooed gorilla men with untamed beards and a “Born to Be Wild” attitude. But in recent years, motorcycle clubs in Cambodia have been winning recognition for dignity and generosity, rather than hoodlumism and violence.
On a recent weekend, a convoy of luxury motorcycles, ranging from Harley Davidson cruisers to Ducati speed racers, traveled from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. The purpose? To promote awareness about safe riding and to raise money for the Angkor Hospital for Children.
Riders of the Cambodia Biker Club (CBC), the largest and most well-known motorcycle club, were not the only ones to ride. They were joined by SeDarah MC Cambodia members, Khmer Sport Bikes (KSB) and Motor Sport Bikes. Members hailed from Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, China, South Korea, Philippines, the United States, and Brunei.
The three-day, two-night journey from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap wasn’t without challenges. On the way to Battambang, one rider from KSB went down hard while trying to pass a vehicle. He suffered a broken collarbone, making it impossible for him to continue the ride.
Super sport bikes have over 1100 CCs, and are able to easily go over 321km/hr. Sitting on that kind of power, it’s hard for some riders not to speed or pass in a dangerous manner.Therefore, there has to be safe gaps between the bikes.
“I’m like a teacher telling them to slow down,” said Sinos Bartholomew, organizer of the event and member of CBC in Siem Reap. “They have no rules.”
On long rides, there is always a captain that coordinates how the group rides.
“You expect them [car drivers] to be human, but they are really animals – they never pay attention,” said RCAF Major Ke Piseth, or “Captain Rambo,” as he is called by his friends. Maj. Piseth is the road captain for CBC, a group of over 120 riders.
“I’m not like Rambo in the movies because I will always be there for my brothers because the road is always really hard,” he said.
“I hope in the future that people will be more educated,” he continued. “I hope the government or an NGO will educate others through television public service announcements about road safety like turning, passing and wearing a helmet.
With engines blaring, the bike clubs met outside of Siem Reap and then proceeded in formation, all 150 motorcycles, to the entrance of Angkor Wat temple. The brotherhood that comes from riding in a group is strong and can be felt as everyone rolls out together.
“In this community it is all about friendship, all about riding the bikes, and all about having fun,” said one rider, Frederik Carlsward. “None of us are gangsters, we’re all businessmen.”
“What a memory to cherish for some time, especially all local bikers joining with such a message that we care to ride and ride to care, with safety always in mind.” said CBC president, Sean Wong.
From Angkor Wat, members visited the Angkor Hospital for Children, where they presented $3,323 donation to the hospital. Gift bags of stuffed toys were passed out to children patients. The Angkor Hospital for Children is free for all children, both Khmer and foreigner.
“We hope this event will give them a positive outlook on road safety,” said Mr. Wong. “When we come a long way we always promote safe riding. Our motto we care to ride and we ride to care.”
Rather than a gang of misfits decked out in tattoos with gnarly attitudes, these biker club members are civil servants, businessmen and bank officials. They unite out of a common love of big bikes, such as Harley-Davidson choppers, Ducati racers and Yamahas.
When the first motorcycle clubs formed in Cambodia, starting with the CBC in 2011, police went undercover to eavesdrop on meetings, suspecting that a was “gang” up to no good. What they found instead was a group that contributes to the community in a positive way.