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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Expat robberies continue, cars now also targeted

Expat robberies continue, cars now also targeted

SECURITY officials are concerned at an emerging trend of car hijackings as expatriates

in Phnom Penh continue to be targeted by armed robbers.

At least two vehicles were hijacked at gunpoint over a ten day period in the middle

of May.

At about 5.30 pm on May 12 three armed men held up the owner of a Toyota saloon outside

the Cactus Bar on Sihanouk Blvd. After demanding the keys they stole the vehicle

and drove off.

At 9:30 pm on May 22 another saloon was hijacked outside the Eid Restaurant on Sothearos

St, approximately half a kilometer south of the Royal Palace.

An NGO worker left the restaurant and crossed the road before being bailed up by

two men armed with a handgun. They stole a bag and the vehicle's keys before driving

off.

In the two weeks prior to the Post's press time, 17 foreigners had reported being

robbed at gun point, but one western security official said a total of 25 would be

a more realistic figure.

The latest figures brings the total to approximately 70 armed hold ups over a six

week period.

"I am very worried," the official said. "The situation is growing

steadily out of control. Some westerners are becoming very angry at the situation.

That combined with the fact that many are affected by alcohol when confronted by

bandits means the risk of serious violence is increasing.

"Some people are thinking of arming themselves, but I would dissuade them -

it's likely to make the situation worse," he said.

The official, and others, have expressed frustration at the apparent lack of will

by police to address the problem.

"Phnom Penh is a small town and we are getting fairly consistent descriptions

indicating the hold-ups are the work of a relatively small group of criminals,"

said one.

"Some moto drivers seem to know who these people are, so why don't the police?"

he asked, referring to one incident in which an expatriate was warned to go back

inside by his moto-taxi driver.

Bars and restaurants are continuing to report a down turn in business, some as much

as fifty per cent.

Gerard Thevenet, the owner of La Taverne on the Tonle Sap waterfront said his turnover

was down thirty per cent.

"This is bad for Cambodia - tourists will not come here. But what can I do?

I just have to wait for things to get better," he said.

Other bars, however, are taking a more proactive approach. The Foreign Correspondents

Club of Cambodia is now offering its customers a half hourly taxi service between

9:00 pm and midnight.

Another nearby pub has secured the services of armed police who will give customers

a ride home for a dollar a trip.

Some expats are worried that having an armed escort on their trip home might only

mean that they get caught in a potential cross-fire. Many people - as the various

bars and clubs are now experiencing through their tills - are opting just to stay

home at night instead of venturing out.

Meanwhile, the Australian Embassy and the United Nations have joined a growing list

of organizations and diplomatic missions who have officially expressed their concern

to Cambodian authorities about the ongoing spate of crime directed toward the expatriate

community.

The latest protests were delivered to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and follow

similar action by the British, French and American embassies.

The Cooperation Committee for Cambodia, a body representing foreign NGOs, has also

written to the Ministry of Interior requesting it to more actively address the problem.

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