Grassed up: Facebook leads Myanmar police to weed-growing Americans

By AFP

YANGON — Myanmar police have arrested one American and two locals after photos on Facebook led them to a huge plantation of towering marijuana plants near Mandalay.

Pictures of the fields of weed started circulating on the platform last week — a rare sight online in a country where police photos of seized heroin and methamphetamine are far more common.

Police raided the 20-acre site in Ngunzun Township Monday to find nearly 350,000 marijuana plants — some up to two metres tall — 380 kilograms of seeds and 270 kilograms of marijuana, the Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC) announced Wednesday.

A released photo showed arrested US citizen Mr John Fredric Todoroki, 63, standing alongside Myanmar nationals U Shein Latt, 37, and Ma Shun Le Myat Noe, 23.

Support more independent journalism like this. Sign up to be a Frontier member.

Another man, 49-year-old Mr Alexander Skemp Todoroki, is still “at large”, the CCDAC said.

Police confirmed he is also American.

The detainees have been charged under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law, though it remains unclear what penalties they will face if found guilty.

“We didn’t know this [marijuana plantation] existed,” one local police officer told AFP, asking not to be named.

“We only found out when we were tipped off about it.” 

Seizures of heroin, pills and crystal meth by authorities are more common in Myanmar, where weak rule of law and conflict-riddled border areas allow for the industrial-scale production of harder drugs. 

Reaction on Facebook was swift, with some offering high praise for the arrests. 

Others questioned how the pot growers had been able to get away with it for so long.

“How could the plants have grown so big without you allowing it?” Facebook user Kg Zoe Law commented at the police.

But not everyone’s nose was put out of joint by the agronomists’ antics.

“Let me know where it’ll be burned so I can get in position,” San Yu Ko Ko pleaded.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

More stories

Latest Issue

Stories in this issue
Respect the election result, but don’t gloss over the flaws
The large turnout on November 8 powerfully demonstrated society’s commitment to democracy, but this should not overshadow deep flaws in the electoral process that threaten to undermine future progress.
Image, strategy and friends with money: How the NLD did it again
Trust in Aung San Suu Kyi, a tight social media strategy and help from business leaders were among the factors behind the National League for Democracy’s landslide election win.

Stay on top of Myanmar current affairs with our Daily Briefing and Media Monitor newsletters

Our fortnightly magazine is available in print, digital, or a combination beginning at $80 a year

Sign up for our Frontier Fridays newsletter. It’s a free weekly round-up featuring the most important events shaping Myanmar