Pubdate: Thur, 18 Feb 1999
Source: South China Morning Post (Hong Kong)
Copyright: 1999 South China Morning Post Publishers Limited.
Author: JOE COCHRANE in Phnom Penh


Seven elderly Cambodian women who sell marijuana to foreigners at a tourist
market in Phnom Penh have been arrested and are being held in custody
pending trial.

National anti-drug officials condemned the arrests, saying the peasant women
were small-time sellers and police only busted them after failing to extort

The women, most of whom are in their 60s and 70s, sell pre-rolled marijuana
cigarettes and large bags of pot at Phnom Penh's "Russian Market". They also
sell spices and traditional herbs for cooking, and tobacco.

Cambodia has an anti-drug law, but marijuana and other popular drugs such as
amphetamines and ecstasy are commonly available at some markets, guest
houses and nightclubs.

Police seized 38kg of marijuana and several boxes of pre-rolled cigarettes
during the raid on Friday, Phnom Penh deputy police chief Colonel Ek Kreth

"My guys did not go to extort money from them," he said. "We arrested them
because they were selling marijuana contrary to the law."

But the Interior Ministry's anti-drug chief, Nguon Soeur, said police should
worry more about big-time drug smugglers.

"I am very disappointed," he told the English-language Cambodia Daily
newspaper. "I heard the policemen arrested them because they were trying to
extort money from them. Why don't police arrest big drug dealers?"

"These women have been there for years quite harmlessly," one long-time
British resident said.

"I would be a lot more impressed if they were arresting people with
firearms, or corrupt police and government officials."

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