Americans Found Growing Cannabis May Receive Death Penalty in Myanmar
Most people are worried about receiving a fine, less than a year jail time or probation if caught with marijuana in the U.S. Other countries do not take drug offences lightly and impose the harshest of penalties including death. This is exactly the situation an American by the name of John Fredric Todoroki has found himself in. A Myanmar Court has charged him and his two co-workers with committing drug offenses related to marijuana. If found guilty they could face anywhere from five years in prison for growing weed and execution if found to be guilt of trafficking.
Todoroki’s case is not cut and dry by any means. He claims that him and his coworkers were growing hemp, not marijuana. He also stated that he had official permission from the regional government of Mandalay to grow hemp. The police are said to have discovered 349,300 marijuana plants, 838 pounds of marijuana seeds, 5,200 seedlings and 64 ounces of cannabis oil along with laboratory equipment and chemicals at III M Nutraceutical. Co. plantation. The company remains firm that the plants were hemp and were to be used for development and research. This project was said to be approved in August of 2018 by the Mandalay regional government.
Myanmar formerly known as Burma is located in Southeast Asia. According to gov.uk, Myanmar is a country where you could be imprisoned for a long time if arrested and convicted of breaking the law. Not only that, but you may not get a fair trial as the legal process is reported as lacking transparency, being unpredictable and open to corrupt politicians and businessmen. If you are unfortunate enough to be imprisoned, the conditions are overcrowded and poverty stricken. Offenses that we would find unbelievable in the states are the following:
- Insulting religion
- Disrespectful tattoos of religious figures
- Posting a harsh review of a hotel online
- Organizing and participating in peaceful assemblies
- Wearing a tattoo of Buddha below the waist
Myanmar is not alone in inflicting severe sentences for drug offenses. In December of 2017 courts in Lufeng and Shanwei sentenced ten people to death. The scariest thing about this incident was the fact that the defendants were put to death immediately after sentencing. China was definitely sending a harsh message to its citizens as slogans were hung all around the stadium, where the public execution took place. The slogan was a message promoting China’s campaign to eliminate drug crimes nationwide. Six months prior, 8 other people were executed immediately after their verdicts were read. China is believed to have the highest death penalty rate in the world.
On Nov 18 of 2016 a 38-year-old Nigerian man by the name of Chijoke Stephen Obioha was hung. He was found guilty on charges that stemmed from a raid in 2007 by drug enforcement officers in Singapore. He was convicted of having 2,604.56 grams of cannabis. He was given the death penalty in December of 2008. Under the laws in Singapore it’s not up to the prosecutor to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The burden of proof of innocence, falls on the defendant. Despite appeals for clemency from Amnesty International Obioha was executed anyway. Other countries that have put people to death for marijuana offenses are:
- Saudi Arabia
Whether or not Todoroki will be given the death penalty will all depend on the courts in Myanmar. As Americans it’s easy to forget that other countries do not have simple constitutional rights that we sometimes take for granted such as due process, unusual and cruel punishment, right to an attorney even if you cannot afford one and innocent until proven guilty.
If you choose to visit countries that does not extend basic human rights to their citizens, proceeds with caution. Being a foreigner from a country with basic human rights does not protect you when visiting a country without them. Just be happy that you can enjoy your rights when you get home.
Things to be on guard for is customs, religions and way of dress. Leave the cannabis at home and keep an eagle eye on your personal belongings and luggage in case criminals try to put something illegal in your bags. Hopefully one day everyone across the globe can enjoy freedom and basic human dignity. But, until then it’s better to be safe than sorry.