Student activists yesterday claimed to have unearthed a processing plant for yellow vine, the harvest of which is widely acknowledged to be environmentally damaging.
The plant is reportedly located in Koh Kong’s Thma Bang district and, according to district chief Tou Savuth, is owned by a Chinese company.
“It’s a Chinese company that collects forest products, including yellow vine among others, in order to produce traditional medicine,” Savuth said.
Law student Vong Panha said he was among a group that recently snuck inside the compound disguised as plant employees.
“There were about 40 workers who were building the factory; it was 70 percent complete. We heard from villagers that they were buying up vines for 200 to 300 riel,” Panha said.
He went on to accuse the company of preparing to manufacture ecstasy. However, experts are in agreement that while certain chemicals extracted from yellow vine are similar in composition to MDMA precursors, it is not possible to produce the drug with them.
But while the company would appear to be in the clear when it comes to narcotics legislation, it risks running afoul of the Law on Forestry.
The law prohibits the establishment of yellow vine processing facilities “that may cause significant pollution or destruction to the forest ecosystem”, with offenders punishable by up to 10 years in prison.