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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Car thieves learn from 'Miami Vice'

Car thieves learn from 'Miami Vice'

So many vehicles have been stolen since the first UNTAC car went missing in June

last year that the U.N. police rarely bother trying to find them anymore.

When a thief took "Tim's" white pick-up from outside his house it simply

became another statistic on a list of 201 stolen vehicles.

Now Tim does not want another car and believes his UN badge offers no protection.

World Food Program (WFP) lost its fifth vehicle to a scam dubbed the "Miami

technique" , after the practice of ramming and robbing tourists' cars outside

Miami airport.

When a car bumped into the the back of the agency's Land Cruiser near Phnom Penh

University, the driver found himself staring down the barrel of an 8mm pistol as

he stepped out to inspect the damage.

The thieves kept the gun to his head until they let him go two hours later in Takeo.

Scott Leiper, director of operations at WFP, thinks it may be a sign of more brazen

tactics to come.

"They started by stealing parked cars," he said. "If it gets to the

point where they're taking cars on the road, the only choice is not to drive a Land

Cruiser."

Now the agency practices what it calls "safe driving" - using old cars

and pick-ups, and traveling in convoy whenever possible.

Michael Watts is a former British policeman but he fell victim to one of the oldest

tricks in the book and one that may ultimately cost him $2000.

The motorcycle he rented from a shop on Achar Mean disappeared when he parked it

inside his yard. The shop asked him to pay compensation.

CIVPOL and UNTAC's Military Police shunted him backwards and forwards for two days

before declaring they could not help a non-UN employee and directing him to the Interior

Ministry.

Watts is now tied up in red-tape and without his passport which he used as a deposit

at the rental shop, and mysteriously, he has seen the "missing" bike available

for hire at the same shop.

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