Police Detain Trader for Mixing Cassava, Sand

Police detained a cassava dealer for questioning in Battambang province on Monday after local farmers alleged that he had been mixing sand into their product to artificially increase its weight before exporting it to buyers in Thailand, an official said.

Hong Han, 54, was detained at about 9 a.m. as a result of a police probe into complaints from local farmers that the price of their product had decreased significantly in the past few months, according to Ly Rum, deputy police chief of Sampov Loun district.

“We detained the cassava dealer because he added sand to the cassava to increase the weight,” he said, adding that Mr. Han would remain at the district police station overnight and would undergo further questioning today.

He said district police had been investigating the businessman’s operations for about two months and said that “spies” at Mr. Han’s storage facility had confirmed his methods, as had buyers at the Thai border.

“Our spies confirmed that the dealer, Hong Han, had added sand to the cassava. Then police went to check his cassava storage,” he said.

Van Veth, 56, deputy chief of O’Chaneub village, who owns a 20-hectare cassava farm in Ta Sda commune, said he had lost about $20,000 as a result of falling cassava prices, which he blamed on Mr. Han sending tainted exports to Thailand.

“It is like killing our cassava market or killing the farmers here, because the dealer made our product poor quality,” he said.

Khun Phon, acting chief of Ta Sda commune, said the dealer’s adulteration had negatively affected the perceived quality and value of cassava being shipped to Thailand.

“My people here are farmers,” she said. “They live and depend on agricultural products, so if the price of cassava becomes very cheap they will have financial problems because some people have taken out loans to support their farms.”

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