PORT authorities in Vietnam seized 6.3 tons of Cambodia-grown cannabis off a freighter
at Ho Chi Minh City Jan 15, according to the chief of Cambodian Interpol.
The container with the stash was loaded at Sihanoukville before it passed through
Singapore, according to police general Skadavy M Ly Roun.
Narcotics police there seized another 4.3 tons of cannabis off the merchant vessel
Mint Zoom on Jan 27. The pot was reportedly hidden amid a consignment of garments.
Skadavy would not give details about the latest haul of cannabis originating from
Cambodia, except that the container number has been traced to a Phnom Penh-based
freight company. Cambodian Interpol will move on this only when it receives the official
report from its Vietnamese counterpart, Skadavy added.
The Vietnamese and Singa-porean hauls bring to approximately 67 the total tonnage
of Cambodian pot seized off ships around the world in 12 seizures reported since
June 1995, but experts say the tonnage harvested in Kandal, Koh Kong, and Kompong
Cham provinces probably runs into the hundreds, and that it is being grown over hundreds
"The production of cannabis in Cambodia is increasing considerably, and is now
reaching levels in the order of several hundred hectares," said a police source.
"If one hectare produces at least one ton of cannabis, then the scale of cannabis
cultivated in Cambodia has to be in the hundreds of tons."
It remains to be seen whether powerful Cambodian interests are behind the production
and export of cannabis, but so far, Cambodian police lay the blame on Thai and Vietnamese
middlemen who they say are taking advantage of poor Cambodians.
"Thai businessmen are behind the smuggling," Skadavy said. "They give
money to our farmers to grow marijuana in their farms, and then sell it to Vietnam
The middlemen allegedly supply seeds and equipment to local farmers, paying them
handsome rates for the crop at harvest time.
In one instance, according to Skadavy, Thai entrepreneurs paid farmers up to $170,000
in Cambodia to grow and illegally export more than ten tonnes of pot in 1996.
Police gleaned this information from a booklet found on one of four Cambodians wholesalers,
who were arrested on Jan 30 as they tried to transport 100 kilos of cannabis from
Kandal to the capital.
"In 1996, these Cambodians sold more than 10 tonnes which were sent across the
Thai border at Poipet," Skadavy added.
Skadavy was also adamant that the large quantities of marijuana confiscated in recent
months were home-grown.
"Of course that marijuana is from our country...we can't answer no any more,"
he said, adding that some 500 hectares are being grown in Kandal province alone.
Not everyone in the Royal Government, however, shares the police general's sentiments.
Finance minister Keat Chhon and Customs director Sar Ho both said that the exact
origins of the pot recently seized in Singapore can only be determined once an internal
probe is completed.
"I cannot say it is from our country...I am investigating," Ho said, adding
that he is in constantly in touch with his Vietnamese and Singaporean counterparts.
For his part, Chhon maintains that Cambodian customs officers are clean, and carefully
inspect the contents of every container before ships are cleared for departure.
"I have always told [custom officials] to be careful before they seal and close
the containers," Chhon said. "But if it has happened on our side, we are
Addressing the mystery of the Mint Zoom, The minister even hypothesized that the
contraband may have been loaded onto the ship somewhere in the Gulf of Thailand after
it left Cambodian territorial waters.