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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Prison staff deny instructing inmates to grow weed

Prison staff deny instructing inmates to grow weed

Chhoun Chan Thon, deputy director of the Kandal provincial prison, strongly denied local media reports yesterday that his staff had planted a thousand marijuana plants on prison grounds and that inmates were tending to the cash crop.

Actually, he told the Post yesterday, the land was nurturing mango trees, cabbages and mushrooms. And besides, 1,000? That’s way off. There are only two marijuana plants.

He added: “We don’t know why it grows in that area  . . . We did not plant it there.”

On August 30, local media reported that Moung Sam Ath, the prison director in Kandal, had ordered  prisoners to plant thousands of marijuana seedlings for individual profit.

According to those reports, when word got around about his entrepreneurial idea for rehabilitation, Sam Ath dug up the buds and discarded them.

Prisoners are often taught vocational and technical skills to assist with their integretation back into society. Usually, though, the skills are limited to legal occupations.

Sam Ath could not be reached for comment yesterday, but he told the media that while he had, in fact, planted two marijuana trees, it was prisoners who used the cannabis to treat sicknesses such as diarrhoea – which isn’t the first time someone has attributed healing properties to the plant.  

Koy Boun Sorn, director-general of the general department of prisons at the Ministry of Interior, said that after he heard news reports, he ordered officers to conduct research at the prison, but they weren’t able to confirm the allegations.

He added: “I recognise that the old [Kandal] prison used to have two marijuana trees, but just for use as soup flavouring with chicken soup. In the new prison, we have only flowers.”

Provincial Adhoc co-ordinator Men Makara said that during visits to the prison to check on inmates, he had never seen the marijuana plants in question, just flowers.

To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at



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