THE northern province of Oddar Meanchey is covered by forest, and forest products are a source of income for villagers.
During the rainy season, they sell large quantities of forest mushrooms to Thai gamblers.
Each day, hundreds of forest mushrooms picked by villagers are sold to Thai nationals who cross the border to gamble in the cas-inos at the O’ smach international checkpoint.
On Mach, 40, is one of about 10 vendors who regularly sell mushrooms to Thai visitors. On the day of our interview, she sold 100 kilograms of mushrooms that she had bought from residents of Samroang town.
On Mach says Cambodian mushrooms are popular with Thais because they are grown organically and naturally.
“Thais like Khmer mushrooms, and they know that anything taken from the forest is free of chemicals,” she says.
“They enjoy eating more than Khmer people do, and they know more than Khmers about food. They prefer organic things.”
On Mach, with a kilogram bag of mushrooms in each hand, says some mushroom-pickers bring them to the border to sell, while others sell them on site.
She says mushrooms cost between 7000 and 7500 riel a kilogram on site, and between 8000 riel and 10,000 riel a kilo at the markets.
On Mach has noticed that forest mushrooms thrive during the monsoon season, between May and September.
As well as selling mushrooms, she make cakes to sell to supplement her husband’s income as a motodop driver.
Since mid-June, Thai gamblers have resumed crossing the border into Cambodia to visit casinos, following clashes on the border in late April.
At that time, many people who live on the border took refuge in Samroang town.
On Mach is one of tens of thous-ands of people in Oddar Meanchey who fled the clashes, but she did not like leaving her home and did not like eating only supplied food during the conflict.
Another mushroom-seller, who gave her name as Reth, had come to try it for a month. She said she had bought the mushrooms from Samroang residents.
With one hand holding an umbrella to ward off the rain and a kilogram bag in the other, Reth said one kilogram of mushrooms cost her 8000 riel and she could re-sell them for 9000 riel to 10,000 riel.
“Today, I have sold about 20 kilo-grams,” she said. “Thais like to buy mushrooms when they are returning home.”