In this post, I am going to share a true story of a relentless woman, I call Ms D who had lost her phone, a Samsung Galaxy A6 in a Grab Tuk Tuk in one of the streets of Phnom Penh. This happened this last few days.
On Thursday evening, I received a message from Ms D asking me to call a certain phone number. Upon inquiry, she told me it’s her phone number but was taken by a dishonest Grab driver.
Ms D lost her phone inside a Grab tuk tuk on her way to school on Thursday morning. Upon realizing it, she called her own number immediately but was unreachable. Someone must have taken out the SIM card right away. She called the driver and the driver denied seeing the phone in his tuk tuk. Ms D filed a complaint at the Grab office and arranged for a meeting with the driver. She also reported the incident at the police station in Bang Keng Kang, but the police officers refused to take any action because it’s only a cell phone.
As per policy, a police officer must be present at the Grab office during the meeting. Ms D’s TA (teacher assistant) found a police officer from another station and he appeared at the Grab office to help. At the Grab office, the driver adamantly denied seeing or getting the phone. That if he had seen it, he would have returned it. Without evidence, nothing was accomplished during that meeting.
Ms D told the grab driver outside the office that if he returns the phone she’ll pay him back. She was thinking of paying him at least $100 to redeem it. The driver still deny getting the phone. He told her that she should pay him instead for wasting his time calling for a meeting at the Grab office.
What the driver didn’t know was that Ms D won’t just give up easily. She’s a fighter. What's with that cheap cell phone anyway that she won’t just let it go. Her friends and relatives told her just to give up the fight, let the phone go and get a new one. Why stress or even endanger yourself? Well, she actually bought her a new one but giving up on her old phone was not an option.
Suddenly, she had an idea. She went online and tracked the location of the phone. The built-in GPS showed the last location of the phone by St 202. When I saw the location posted on her Facebook account, I thought it looked like it was taken to Kleang Romsiew. This place is famous for second hand phones where you can trade in phones. It’s also infamous for stolen ones.
On Saturday, Ms D went to look where the phone was taken to. After several attempts, she found the place and to her surprise it’s a phone shop. Pretending not being able to speak English well, she just pointed at the CCTV in front of the shop. At first, the people didn’t understand what she wanted; but she kept pointing at the CCTV. The owner of the place came, and after chatting with him, he finally agreed to show and give the CCTV footage to her.
Then she explained why she wanted the footage because her phone was stolen and that there are important documents and files. The CCTV footage show the grab driver di take the phone there at about past 10:00 on Thursday morning to have it reformatted, erasing all content. The driver stayed for 45 minutes trying to wait. The phone guy couldn’t unlock the phone easily so he told the driver to leave and come back in the afternoon. Another guy came back late in the afternoon to pick it up. After the phone was reformatted, its location was no longer traceable.
With solid evidence in her hand, Ms D called me up and asked me if a Khmer person can go with her as a witness at the Grab office. Because everyone was busy I decided to go. The grab office was closed because it’s a holiday. So we just stayed in front of the office as she began to tell me what happened. When she told me all that she did, I was impressed by her relentless effort and courage to get the evidence. She even told me that the owner of the shop is willing to come and testify if needed.
Ms D, however, was also concerned about her safety. What if the Grab driver will try to take revenge and will do something bad to her if he loses his Grab registration. So we devised a strategy; not to put shame on the driver if he was found out to be the culprit. Perhaps we can call the driver and tell him that we found evidence that he did take the phone. If he would return the phone, then we would drop the complaint. Ms D did not agree about this at first but she said, she will think about it. In the afternoon she called the driver through a Khmer neighbor to test the water and to arrange a meeting at the Grab office on Monday because she found evidence. The grab driver threatened Ms D that if she is unable to provide solid evidence, he would file a complaint against her at the police station instead. With the driver’s reaction, it is best to proceed with the meeting on Monday, but call the guy who reformatted the phone and the owner of the shop to come to the Grab office and testify.
On Sunday, Ms D went back to the shop and talked to the owner if he could come to the Grab office on Monday. He agreed to go but the other one was scared to go. He even told Ms D not to create a problem for just a cell phone. This reinforces Ms D’s worry that the driver might do something so she wanted to change house for security purposes. I said there was no need to move to another house.
On Monday, MS D wanted more evidence. She went to the salon shop near her school if she could get the CCTV footage when the driver dropped her off last Thursday morning. After waiting till 10:00 am, the footage didn’t show any relevant evidence.
I made it to the Grab office at about 10:30, but the driver wasn’t there. “Perhaps he is on a trip” the staff muffled. While Ms D was talking to the Grab staff, I talked to a rich-looking young man in a white polo shirt with black pants and black shoes. He was smartly dressed so I said, Sir, are you from the shop? “I am,” he said. “What about you, are you from the police?” he replied. “ I am not. I am a friend of Ms D.” “You must have been in Cambodia for a long time because you speak khmer very well”. I said, “only 18 years”.
While waiting for the driver, the man in white was called to show the CCTV footage to the staff and made some explanation. From a distance, I watch the footage while he's showing it to the staff. The staff told him if he could send them the footage, only a part of it because the guy stayed there for 45 minutes.
Sitting next to the man in white, I asked him, “so do you sell mobile phones as well? To show good faith, I thought I would visit his shop and check on what mobile phones he sells. He said, “no. I don’t sell mobile phones.” I was perplexed. And then he said, “I am the owner of the market.” I was speechless for a few seconds. “I owned 57 shops at Kleang Rom Siev." I replied, “You are a big guy.” “Not really,” he said.
Then I thought to myself, who is Ms D that she could command the owner of the market to come to the Grab office to testify for a lost cheap cell phone? I said cheap phone because the owner of the market told later that the price of that phone according to the seller is about $25-$30 only.
Even Ms D, didn’t know that this man in white owns the market. She thought she only owned the shop where her phone was taken to and reformatted. Still, no word from the driver.
Finally, the staff was able to contact and locate the driver. Unfortunately, it may take an hour before he gets to the office. So we were all advised to leave and come back within an hour. The man in white did his part and requested if it was okay not to return. Before we left, I told the staff, “all that Ms D needs is to have her phone back and she is willing to pay the driver as well. Please let your driver know this.” Then we all left. I went out and did some walking while waiting.
At 12:15, Ms D called me to return to the office because the driver had arrived. Upon arriving, I recognized the driver immediately. How did I know? It's a coincidence that he was wearing the same clothes and pants he had last Thursday, the ones I saw in the CCTV footage. How could he ever deny it.
We have one more problem to overcome. The Grab staff told us that a police officer must come as per policy. I thought another guy told us earlier that we can only go to the police if the driver will still deny even with the solid evidence. The good thing was, Ms D’s TA already mentioned to the same police officer who was there last Thursday to come to the Grab office again at 10:00. But he wasn’t there yet. So I had to call him if he could come or else we will have to look for another officer. He said he is on his way.
The police officer arrived in pure black uniform, with a gun strapped on his left side. He said, “I’m sorry for being late because we had to guard the streets while the Prime Minister was in a meeting and I could only come when the meeting was over.”
He sat down and read the police blotter. Then asked Ms D to present her evidence. He listened patiently through the interpreter and then turned to the driver and said, “what can you say about this?” The driver said, “I admit I went to that shop only to take a passenger.” The driver still adamantly denies taking Ms D’s phone.
Ms D took out a piece of paper from her bag containing more evidence. She has more evidence? She does. It's the phone's memory card and a Philippine SIM card that she had retrieved at the phone shop where her phone was taken into. Fortunately, the shop seller was able to retrieve it from the trash bin and gave it back to her last Saturday.
Again how did Ms D gather all her evidence, playing the detective role, and all by herself? It was pretty impressive. Even the police officer was impressed by how she was able to obtain CCTV footage from the owner of the market and to have the market owner come to the Grab office to witness.
At this point, the police raised his voice a bit and told the driver, “here is solid evidence of a CCTV footage with you wearing the same clothes and with witnesses that you took the phone there. How can you still deny it? With this evidence and witnesses, you can go to prison.
All of a sudden, the driver changed his tune and said “I admit I took the phone but I did not steal it on purpose because it was left in my tuk tuk. I didn't mean to steal it.” The police said, “Now that you admit it, admit it totally.” The driver finally confessed what he did in front of us all.
He added, "I don’t know why I did that. For 3 years I have had many passengers forgetting their phones in my tuk tuk but I returned them all. This is the first time I did this crazy thing. I don’t understand myself.” Then he looked at Ms D and said I’m sorry. He looked at me and the Grab staff and said the same thing.
Ms D replied, “I have forgiven you already. All I need is to have my phone back and I will pay you as well.” The staff said, do you really need to pay him? “It’s okay”, Ms D said.
The officer asked the driver where is the phone right now? All we know is that had sold it to someone at a cheap price. But he did not sell it and it's at his house. The question is where is his house? How far? Only 16 kilometers away.
Ms D said, “if you go and get it, we will wait." He was getting ready to go but the police told him to contact someone to bring it in order to save time. I handed him my phone and called someone who's at work to go to his house, take the phone and bring it to the Grab office. We had to wait for about 30 minutes.
While waiting MS D asked the Grab staff what would happen to the grab driver after this meeting. “As for me, as long as I get my phone back it’s up to the police and the Grab Company what they want to do to him.” Grab staff said that as per policy, the driver will be banned from Grab. He won’t be a part of them anymore. Ms D asked the staff if they can give him a second chance so that he will not lose his job. The staff said, “we cannot promise because we have another team who decides on this issue.”
The police asked MS D what she wanted about this case. She said “all I need is my phone back”. The police explained that if Ms D pressed charges, based on the crime committed, the driver could go to prison for 6 months to 1 year. Upon hearing this, the driver broke down and then wiped his tears. He came and knelt down in front of Ms D and begged forgiveness. MS D told him, "it’s okay. I have already forgiven you". Then she gave him a hug. In such a time as this, you will forget that Covid still exists. Well, everyone is fully vaccinated so it’s okay I guess.
While sitting, the police asked me series of questions. You’ve been here long, what do you do? I said, "I am a follower of Jesus. I work with churches. Have you heard about Jesus or Christianity?" One of the Grab staff interrupted and said, “are you a Christian? I said, “yes. we are”. With smile, the lady Grad staff replied, “I am a Christian too." The police officer again asked more questions whether or not Ms D was single. How old was she? Was she fully vaccinated? What about the booster shot? If she was not, he is willing to take him and get her booster shots.
The person assigned to take the phone finally arrived at the office. We asked the driver to hand the phone over to Ms D so we could take a picture as evidence that the phone was returned to the rightful owner. There was a display of emotion during this moment.
The effort Ms D exerted in all of these, the people she involved or bothered, the lessons learned and the friends made are memories to cherish. Perhaps not a cheap phone after all!
But what happened after this? Did Ms D pay the Grab driver? Did she press charges? Did Grab remove the driver from its list? What about the police officer? Watch out for part two.