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No More 'happy Pizzas' In Cambodia


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CAMBODIA No more 'happy pizzas'

Phnom Penh's marijuana-laced treats face chop in latest drug crackdown

CAMBODIA: -- Changing times and politics in Southeast Asia may finally spell extinction for one of the most famous - or infamous - delicacies enjoyed by many backpackers, Cambodia's "happy pizza".

Legendary among travellers, the hippy's little helper version of pizza is simply the traditional Italian favourite with a Cambodian twist - the rich tomato base comes heavily laced with marijuana.

Although officially illegal for several years, locals have traditionally used marijuana in soups. Travellers crossing the Lao-Cambodian border previously even reported a small garden of the stuff being lovingly tended by customs officials.

Then foreign inspiration transformed the drug into the world's most talked-about pizza topping. Dozens of happy pizza parlours sprang up.

But now the Cambodian government's battle against drugs has given "pizza wars" a whole new meaning.

The weed putsch

This week marijuana was claimed as Cambodia's first "total victory" in eliminating a drug from both domestic and export markets by Interior Ministry anti-drug chief, Police Gen Lou Ramin.

"Marijuana is no longer a problem in Cambodia," he declared. "We are strengthening our monitoring throughout the country and its borders."

Plantations which once required helicopter airlifts to clear them have been wiped out, he said, leaving the government free to concentrate on the more prevalent evils of heroin, cocaine and drugs such as methamphetamines.

The government's anti-grass putsch began in 1999, when seven women, who had previously openly sold marijuana at traditional medicine stalls, were arrested in a police raid and 38 kilos of the weed confiscated.

Back then, a compressed brick of marijuana sold for around US$2 (Bt62) and a packet of 25 ready-rolled cigarettes was just $1, but inflation and crackdowns pushed the price up. Somehow, however, the iconic happy pizza survived, until now.

The spiked pizza's status as a backpacker's rite of passage has earned it mentions even on reputable travel websites such as Lonely Planet. YouTube features videos of it being made, eaten, sold - and its extremely potent side-effects.

Grins of delight

A former Foreigner Police officer says that tourists ingesting marijuana in pizza form often got dangerously out of hand .

"I saw people take their clothes off after eating this - especially women".

"Some people laugh, but some cry, and some just jump in the lake," he said.

Expatriates familiar with the potent pizza grin when they tell the story of one of the capital's most famous happy pizza chefs admitting himself to hospital and spending the night on a drip after sampling a slice of his famed pizza for the first, and last, time.

--The Nation 2008-04-10

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Ah..this story brings back fond memories of many a visa run to Phenon Penh and the many pizza's having been enjoyed...with my standard order being pepperoni with "extra happy please!"

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