The War on Drugs

1 Feb

Soi comes into Koh Kong every couple of weeks to smoke some green, have a few beers and shoot the breeze at his friend’s sister’s guesthouse. I guess he’s a walking demonstration of the survival of the fittest and the futility of Prohibition.

Soi’s family left Cambodia when the Vietnamese invaded and the old regime fell, and he was born and raised behind the fence of a refugee camp in Thailand: “I didn’t see a tree until I was twelve years old.”

The camp was a “king’s camp”. While they may not have had trees, the kids had lovely uniforms, in which they drilled daily. “When I was a kid, the only thing I wanted to do was fight for the king.”

Anyway, politics turned, as did the king, the family came home, and dad, who had been a civil servant under the Khmer Rouge, is now a judge under the king. (Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen, ran operations in the east of the country for Pol Pot, so such adaptability is less surprising than it might seem.)

Aged 19, Soi decides to go to Koh Kong, to check out the area and maybe do some fishing. He comes for a day, discovers weed, and ends up staying two months.

Simultaneously, the Americans institute one of their periodic crackdowns on drugs, the local marijuana growers go into flat spin, land values plummet, and Soi picks up 28 hectares of prime growing land for just north of £500.

So today he’s a farmer, growing jackfruit and oranges, and experimenting with seeds from all around the world. He wants, he says, to grow the first strawberries in Cambodia.

A dream, like most dreams, that he likes to explore when high as a kite on finest Kampuchean green. Ch’naing!

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