K OH AN LONG CHIN, KANDAL - The enforcer's black shirt bore a white peace sign. He
poured gasoline onto the mound, lit it and watched the marijuana burn.
He was among 60 Ministry of Interior enforcers sent on Dec 17 to this island on the
Bassac River to eradicate an estimated 52 hectares of cannabis.
Much to the dismay of the locals, police rated the first raid on a pot farm since
the Drug Law was passed this month a success. But their targets are bigger plantations.
"After we have finished with this operation to burn marijuana in Kandal province
- it will take about two weeks - we will go to other provinces such as Kompong Cham
and Koh Kong," said Gen. Skadavy M Ly Roun of Cambodian Interpol. "Larger
quantities of cannabis are being grown there on larger tracts of land for export
to the West."
Arriving in speedboats, teams scoured the island. Traces of pot were scattered amid
fruit and vegetable patches.
The enforcers entered people's gardens, kicked down fences and tore out tufts of
cannabis. Village men squatted silently but the women complained about a livelihood
going up in smoke.
"If the police provide us with rice, then I would not be angry," said one.
"A few months ago, when a flood destroyed our other crops, we started to grow
cannabis. No one told us that marijuana was illegal."
Vietnamese and Thai middle-men, the villagers claimed, had brought seeds and equipment,
promising relatively big bucks - 30,000 riels ($11) - for each kilo.
Since June 1995, Skadavy said, 57 tons of Cambodian-grown pot have been seized-off
freighters from Norway to Sydney, where 5 tons were seized on Dec 5. The largest
haul, 13 tons, was at Antwerp port in June .