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Shameful Arrests of Good-natured Ganga Ladies in Pnom Penh's Russian Market -- Reported 1999-03-11 17:55 by Oliver Green

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! -- El Snatcher

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 US).

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!"

 

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

vagrant@pigdog.org


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