BANGKOK – A major Laos drug lord dubbed “Mr X” has been jailed for life by a Bangkok court, as Thailand battles record meth trafficking through its borders.
Xaysana Keopimpha, a swaggering Laotian who before his arrest paraded his celebrity links and penchant for sports cars on social media, was picked up at Bangkok’s main airport in January last year.
He was accused of being a kingpin in a meth smuggling ring that funnelled tonnes of Myanmar-made yaba pills and ice crystal meth through Communist Laos and into Thailand.
The Laos route south is increasingly used by trafficking gangs keen to reach markets in Thailand, Malaysia and as far as Australia and Japan, where the price of the drug steepens.
A Bangkok court initially handed Xaysana the death penalty, but reduced it to life imprisonment after he admitted several charges of drug smuggling, including over 1.2 million yaba pills in a case dating back to 2016.
“Due to his confession during the investigation process, the court decreases his sentence to life imprisonment,” a Criminal Court judge said in his ruling yesterday.
Evidence pulled from mobile phones linked Xaysana with a smuggling network that used Nong Khai, the Thai border point with Laos, to move drugs south, the judge added.
Details of Xaysana’s colourful life unspooled after his arrest last year.
Investigators say he boasted a contacts book stuffed with the rich and powerful, including Thai celebrities who may have helped shield his narcotics cartel.
According to Thai police, Bangkok and its surrounding suburbs offered crucial hideaways and protection for the drug syndicate, with high-end car dealers and celebrities helping to launder Xaysana’s profits.
They allegedly helped to move drugs manufactured in the “Golden Triangle” – a lawless border region where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar all meet. Rampant corruption across the zone has allowed the drug trade to flourish. – AFP