On Wednesday, Myanmar police arrested an American and two Myanmar citizens after photos on Facebook tipped them off to a huge weed farm near Mandalay. The photos lead authorities to an eight-hectare site where nearly 350,000 marijuana plants, some up to two metres tall, 380 kilograms of seeds and 270 kilograms of marijuana, were found.
In those photos, John Fredric Todoroki, a 63-year-old American, is seen standing next to Myanmar nationals Shein Latt, 37, and Ma Shun Le Myat Noe, 23. The authorities are currently searching for another American, Alexander Skemp Todoroki, who is still "at large."
The three have been charged under the Anti-Narcotics Drug and Psychotropic Substances Law, but the penalties they will face, if found guilty, is yet to be decided.
“We took action as soon as we saw the post on Facebook,” a police officer, San Win, told the New York Times.
According to the country’s law, the production or distribution of psychotropic substances for sale could result in a 15-year minimum sentence, a life sentence or even the death penalty. Meanwhile, drug trafficking is punishable by a 10-year minimum sentence.
Watch: 10 Questions You Always Wanted to Ask a Weed Activist
However, the fate of the detainees remain unclear. The New York Times reported that the local government in the city of Mandalay had given permission in August to a company called III M Nutritional Medicine to grow and export medicinal hemp. A representative of the company confirmed that those three men were part of the company.
The picture that’s now gone viral was uploaded on Facebook by a group called Mahar Legalisation Movement Myanmar, a pro-cannabis legalisation group that aims to "share canna knowledge" to the people of Myanmar.
According to Aung Say Toe, the group’s founder, that even though both marijuana and hemp are illegal in the country, the government should allow research for medical marijuana.
“They are not cultivating secretly. Everyone could see it, and that’s why we could take photos and video of the plantation,” he told the New York Times.
Meanwhile, the public’s reaction on Facebook was polarized, with some praising the arrests while others took a more humorous reaction to it.
"Let me know where it'll be burned so I can get in position," San Yu Ko Ko commented on Facebook.
Myanmar is known to be one of the world’s biggest producer of illegal drugs—notably opium and methamphetamine—and it’s part of Southeast Asia’s Golden Triangle, a hub for the region’s drug trade. The Golden Triangle, which is centred in north Myanmar, also includes Laos and Thailand. While its neighbour Thailand has already started to legalise medical marijuana, the substance remains illegal in Myanmar.