Burma

Local Woman Who Worked for US, Myanmar Operators of Cannabis Farm Is Freed

By Zarni Mann 10 February 2020

Mandalay – Myingyan District Court in Mandalay Region has released Ma Shunlei Myat Noe, who worked for the owners of a plantation at the center of a long-running cannabis case, after spending nearly 10 months in jail.

But the court decided to proceed with the case against a US citizen and a citizen of Myanmar under the Anti-Narcotics Law for allegedly running a marijuana plantation.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said in April that its investigation found marijuana, chemicals and other materials. It added that the plantation was believed to have been planted for medical use for cancer sufferers.

The defendants told the court that they had official permission to grow the plants and the seeds were imported legally.

The court ruled that Ma Shunlei Myat Noe had no responsibility for the plantation.

“The court could find no evidence that Ma Shunlei Myat Noe was responsible for the plantation and it decided to release her,” said Daw Tin Than, the spokeswoman for the Myingyan court.

According to her family, she had been employed for just 21 days when she was arrested in April. She was designated as a lab assistant, however, she only worked as an interpreter.

Ma Shunlei Myat Noe, 23, and Ko Shane Latt, 37, were arrested in April 2019 with US citizen John Fredric Todoroki, 63, following a Facebook post about the plantation.

They are working for III M Global Nutraceutical Company in Myotha industrial park in Myingyan Township, Mandalay Region.

Manager Ko Shane Latt faces a lawsuit for cultivating cannabis and possession of restricted chemicals and other materials to grow the drug. He faces five to 15 years in prison.

Todoroki was granted bail of 300 million kyats (US$207,000) in July because of respiratory and lung complaints.

In January, the court said it would issue an arrest warrant for Todoroki after he missed several court hearings since December.

The bail must be supplied by Todoroki’s friend, U Khin Maung Win, who signed the assurance at the court to guarantee that the US citizen would return to court.

The court is due to proceed with a separate lawsuit against Todoroki on Feb. 24, where it will make a final decision on whether to issue an arrest warrant.

“If he still fails to attend court, the bail money will be seized,” said the court’s spokeswoman.

Approximately 24 hectares used for the plantation were leased from Mandalay Myotha Industrial Development Public Co., Ltd by III M Global Nutraceutical.

After the arrests in April, the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control said it was responsible for the plantation.

It said more than 300,000 marijuana plants, 380 kg of marijuana seeds, formic acid, acetone, acetonitrile concort water, methonal liquid, 271 kg of dried marijuana and other chemicals and materials were seized.

The Irrawaddy reporter De Hlaing Win contributed from Myingyan.

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