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NGOs Demand Action on Car

NGOs Demand Action on Car

Private aid organizations are seeking to hold talks with high-level government representatives

following a spate of violent car thefts in August.

"We are sure the government can do something about this problem and we feel

we cannot just sit here and let it happen," said Nick Hughes, a spokesman for

the Cooperation Committee for Cambodia.

In the first two weeks of August, NGOs lost six vehicles, all Toyota Land Cruisers,

in and around Phnom Penh. In one case, the vehicle was stolen at gun point after

the driver stopped to check on a fallen motorcycle rider who had run into the car.

More vehicles were stolenin the provinces including one which was later found in

a field ringed with land mines.

Hughes said the most disturbing aspect was the increasingly violent nature of the

crimes.

"Compared to UNTAC it's peanuts but the way two of them have gone, with guns

to the head, it is very worrying. Now it has come to the point were I am telling

my staff, if you have an accident and you don't think it was your fault don't stop-and

I am working for a humanitarian organization, it's a horrible situation," he

said.

UNTAC has lost more than 160 cars to car thieves, most of them in the last few months.

The recovery of several of the cars from the houses of high-ranking government and

military officials has led some U.N. officials to believe the robberies are part

of a well-connected racket.

Hughes said he was worried that if it appeared crimes could be committed with impunity,

the security situation in Cambodia could very quickly decline into anarchy.

The wave of thefts was also placing Khmer staff of NGOs and their families under

unfair pressure and suspicion, he said. Recently one NGO driver reported that he

was offered $3,000 to "loan" a Land Cruiser key to be copied. He refused

and was offered $4,000 but again he refused.

Hughes cautioned that while the loss of the vehicles had yet to hinder NGO operations,

"if it continues, agencies may wish to reassess what they are doing here."

"I can understand why people are doing this, it is their chance to make a bit

of money. I don't begrudge them that but in the long term for Cambodia it is not

a good thing," he said.

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