More than 25,000 marijuana plants were destroyed in 73 different locations during a crackdown by Takeo province police on Wednesday and Thursday.
Yuth Sarath, police chief in Kiri Vong district, said that the villagers were secretly planting the illegal crop in the mountains.
“It was not full grown yet, just small plants … A broker convinced the villagers to grow it, saying he would buy it back from them after,” Sarath said.
“They do not understand that it is a kind of illegal plant,” he added.
He said police decided not to arrest the villagers, but burned the crops and had them sign a contract promising not to grow the plant again.
Ek Sophy, deputy police chief of Takeo province, said that far from being unaware of the plants’ uses, the villagers have been warned before.
“The villagers have planted it in that area before, but they still don’t understand,” Sophy said. “We have led many forces to crack down on it. They can plant many crops, why must they plant the crop that is illegal?”
One villager, Sous Yan, admitted he was aware that the plant was illegal, but too profitable to give up growing.
“We know that kind of plant is illegal but someone told us that it would get a high price so we planted it and harvested it. We are so poor. When we harvest other plants, we got less money … We need money,” Yan said.