Total Coverage of Southeast Asia
Starting this week, our roving Southeast Asia correspondent,
Oliver Green, will be filing reports about the bad craziness
going on in Cambodia right now... Strange political riots, the
rampant corruption, fantastic pot smoking, marijuana cuisine and
who knows what else? But we know one thing: it will be crazy! --
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Early on the morning of Friday the
12th, when the Russian market in downtown Phnom Penh was
beginning a day of hard sell and fish guts, police arrested seven
of the much-loved local ganja ladies when they resisted certain
policemen's extortion attempts. Peeved policemen confiscated 38
kilos of ganja without explanation and on tenuous legal grounds.
The chief of the police's anti-drug unit, Nguon Souer, said,
"It's a big mistake... they are simple old ladies," and
complained bitterly that his colleagues were lawless and
incompetent money-grubbing leeches. Marijuana is used liberally
in Khmer cooking, and used to be found in the spice section of
most markets. "Why can't police arrest the big drug dealers,"
whined Nguon. Before the bust, the Russian market was full of
happy people with good jobs and rotund children. Ganja was sold
by the kilo in compressed bricks the size and weight of a good
book ($2.00 US), or in packs of 25 pre-rolled joints ($1.00
Occasionally, a specialty ganja grown on the banks of the
Mekong would be on sale -- green, moist, and with happily
befuddled caterpillars clinging to the buds.
Since the bust seven plagues have swept though the market, and
the wailing and gnashing of teeth can be heard as far away as Wat
Ounaloum. Psar Orasey ganja vendors ceased operations, as did
those of Psar Chah, Psar Kabko and the Vietnamese market, seeding
panic among the expatriate community, who are now forced to buy
expensive hash from the Freedom Cafe's dangerously insane, and
rumor has it, B-40 toting, owner.
Part of Phnom Penh's attraction is the freedom to skin up and
smoke whenever and wherever the fancy takes you.
Becoming a policeman in Phnom Penh is a popular move for
people seeking riches and fame through extortion, corruption,
banditry, smuggling, murder and human trafficking. Particularly
depraved and savage cops have begun threatening bars around town.
One bar owner speculates, hopefully, that someone will shoot the
pesky renegade police. Otherwise, old hands warn, the
"Bangkokization" of Penh's hill will begin. In Bangkok dealers
and policemen have forged a hugely profitable relationship based
on fear and violence. The remainder of the old ladies at the
Russian market are unfazed, however. I've lost a lot of income
from tourists," said Srey Mom, 76, "but my dried lizards are
selling like hot cakes!"