A Thai appellate court Thursday upheld a life sentence for the Lao drug lord Xaysana Keopimpha, better known as Mr. X.
Xaysana and two accomplices were arrested in January 2017 at an airport in Bangkok. They were charged with having 1.2 million meth pills in their possession with an intent to sell in a case that dated back to 2016. An investigation revealed the three were planning to smuggle the drugs, valued at U.S. $4.5 million into Thailand, then to Malaysia.
On Mar. 20, 2018 Xaysana was sentenced to death reduced to life-imprisonment. The lower court cited his confession during the investigation as the reason for the reduced sentence.
An officer of the appellate court told RFA Thursday, “The appellate court has made a decision identical to the lower court’s.”
According to court documents, Xaysana appealed the lower court’s decision, asking for a reduced sentence on the grounds that he was not a Thai national, did not understand Thai law, and only used Thailand as a conduit to move the drugs to other countries without selling in Thailand itself.
The documents noted that he did not have enough evidence to support the appeal. They stated that even though Xaysana was a Lao national with a large drug trafficking network in other countries, he also had the intention to conduct activities related to the network in Thailand as well and should be punished according to Thai law.
Xaysana’s lawyer told RFA after the verdict, “I’m going to talk to him about what we do next. We have 30 days to decide.”
According to documents from the lower court case in 2018, several members of Xaysana’s gang were arrested in 2016 for hiding the 1.2 million pills in an SUV they used to cross the First Lao-Thai Mekong Friendship Bridge between Vientiane, Laos and Nong khai, Thailand.
Thai police interrogated the suspects, who revealed they were working for Xaysana. From there they were able to expose the size and scope of the drug smuggling network.
In April 2018, BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, reported that drug-related arrests in Thailand were on the rise, with at least 900 arrests through the first three months of that year year, compared with 453 in 2017, according to NSB officials.
The “steep increase” in seizures of meth in Southeast Asia points to a growing demand of the drug in the region, where 287 million methamphetamine tablets were seized in 2015, according to the 2017 report of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Most of those seizures took place in Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, UNODC said.
Reported and translated by RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.