Myanmar Employee of US Citizen’s Cannabis Farm Gets 20 Years in Prison
By Zarni Mann 10 March 2020
MANDALAY—The Myingyan District Court in Mandalay Region sentenced a local employee of an American-run cannabis plantation to 20 years in prison on Tuesday.
Ko Shein Latt, 37, who worked as a technician on the plantation’s irrigation system, was found guilty under the Anti-Narcotics Law for his involvement in the operation. He was on trial for nearly a year over a lawsuit for alleged cultivation of marijuana and possession of restricted chemicals and other materials to grow the drug.
“I have no responsibilities for this plantation and I will send an appeal to the higher court,” he said, before he was sent to Myingyan Prison on Tuesday.
He was arrested on April 24, 2019 along with US citizen John Fredric Todoroki and Ma Shunlei Myat Noe, an intern and interpreter, for allegedly cultivating marijuana. The authorities were tipped off by a Facebook post about the alleged marijuana plantation at Myotha Industrial Park in Myingyan Township, operated by III M Global Nutraceutical Company.
Todoroki said he was raising a cannabis crop consisting of hemp plants—not the intoxicating drug marijuana—and that Mandalay Region Chief Minister U Zaw Myint Maung granted permission for the plantation. Hemp and marijuana are two different species of cannabis.
During the court session Tuesday, Ko Shein Latt explained that he was just a technician who installed the irrigation system for the plants and not a manager of the plantation, so he had no responsibilities for the alleged crimes.
Ma Shunlei Myat Noe was released in February after the court found she bore no responsibility for the alleged marijuana plantation.
The court issued an arrest warrant for Todoroki, who has since fled to the US, after he stopped attending court while he was released on medical bail.
Mandalay Myotha Industrial Development Public Co. Ltd (MMID) leased about 60 acres of land to III M Global to develop the plantation.
The Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC) determined that the three arrested last April, as well as five US citizens still at large, were responsible for cultivating a 20-acre marijuana plantation on the land.
The CCDAC also claimed that authorities seized over 300,000 marijuana plants, 380 kg of marijuana seeds, 270 kg of dried marijuana and related chemicals and materials.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced on the same day that its team found plants that appeared to be hemp, and that the plantation is believed to have been cultivated for medical purposes, including cancer treatment.
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