Lao police have arrested one of the country’s major drug kingpins along with his wife and one of his sons in Khammuane province in the central part of the country as they drove home from a wedding, a source who knows the family said.
The family was returning to the capital Vientiane after they attended a wedding in Pakse district in the southern province of Champasak when they were apprehended, he said.
Police arrested the 50-year-old Khonpasong on Jan. 13 after first arresting another one of his sons on drug-dealing charges in northern Laos’ Bokeo province a few days earlier, the source who requested anonymity told RFA's Lao Service on Jan. 29.
“His son was arrested in Bokeo province, and they [police] forced him to tell them where his father was, but he may have told the police that his father was in Pakse,” he said.
Meanwhile, police sent out patrols to surround Khonpasong’s hotels and houses in the capital Vientiane, he said.
“Now the police have confiscated his property, including his vehicles, houses, and a hotel in Kham-houng village in Vientiane’s Saythany district,” the source said.
Khonpasong, a native of Khoua district in northern Laos’ Phongsaly province, resettled in Vientiane in the 1990s, operated entertainment venues with sex workers and gambling houses, and sold illegal drugs—methamphetamines—in Kham-houng village, according to the source.
The owner of the Saynout auto shop in Vientiane, a member of Khonpasong’s drug network, was arrested on Jan. 16, he said.
The arrests of Khonpasong and the auto shop owner have not been made public, and police in Vientiane’s Saythany district and at other stations in the city declined to confirm the news when contacted by RFA.
“Illegal [drug] dealers have been arrested and are being investigated according to the rule of law in Vientiane,” one officer in Vientiane told RFA on Wednesday, however. “We are not sure whether they are from the same [Xaysana] network.”
Sisouk Dao-heuang, another of the country’s major drug dealers, who runs a luxury car business in Vientiane, is being sought by both Lao and Thai police.
He is part of a major methamphetamines distribution network in Southeast Asia operated by 42-year-old Lao national Xaysana Keophimpha who was arrested on Jan. 19 in Thailand.
Thai media reported that Thai police had issued arrest warrants for the suspects, who travel frequently in entertainment and VIP circles.
Arrests in Thailand
Thai police Lt. Gen. Sommai Kongwisaisook, commander of the country's Narcotics Suppression Bureau, told a news conference on Thursday that narcotics police squads have conducted raids targeting nine individuals and 40 locations in Thailand suspected of having connections to Xaysana, 15 of which are in the capital Bangkok.
One of the raided locations was the Area 51 auto accessories shop owned by celebrity race-car driver Akarakit Vorarojcharoendet, the husband of pregnant Thai actress Napapa “Patt” Tantrakul, he said.
Police believe Akarakit has been laundering money for Xaysana, he said.
Officers searched Akarakit’s shop, house, and an apartment he owns for several hours looking for evidence linking the 30-year-old, who also goes by the alias Benz Racing, to Xaysana, Sommai said.
Police believe Akarakit, who is still only a suspect, has accepted cars from Xaysana, including a Lamborghini, he said.
Police found a motorcycle and gun registered in Akarakit’s name in the shop, and the Lamborghini at a garage in Bangkok, he said.
“So far, no charges have been filed against them,” Sommai said. “The investigation is under way to determine if both are doing business with Xaysana or not.”
Police still don’t know if there have been any transactions of assets and are also looking into this, he said, adding that if such evidence is found, Akarakit will be charged with conspiracy and will be prosecuted.
Before the auto shop raid, police arrested Nattaphon Nagkham, a drug dealer who used money from illegal narcotics sales as part of Xaysana’s drug network to buy cars and spare parts from Akarakit’s shop.
The Bangkok Post reported that police also searched the home of Chaiwat Chusai in Nonthaburi province on Thursday and arrested him after seizing 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic that creates a detached, dreamlike state and can be used as a date-rape drug.
The ambulance driver allegedly admitted to being hired as caretaker of a house that served as a storage facility for smuggled drugs before they were distributed to customers, the report said.
When asked by RFA if police had arrested five other drug dealers associated with Xaysana, Sirinya Sitdhichai, secretary-general of Thailand’s Office of the Narcotics Control Board, said that they were continuing to ask Lao authorities to be on the lookout for them.
Thai and Lao authorities will meet on Feb. 8-9 in Loei province, a mountainous, sparsely populated area of northeastern Thailand that borders Laos across the Mekong River, and hold a press conference about their investigation into Xaysana’s network, Sirinya said.
Authorities will then present a plan to monitor the Golden Triangle region of Southeast Asia, a major opium-producing area where Thailand converges with Myanmar and Laos, he said.
Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Ounkeo Souksavanh and Somnet Inthapannha. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.