A Laotian man described as a major drug lord in Thailand and elsewhere in Southeast Asia pleaded not guilty Tuesday in a Bangkok court to charges that could carry the death penalty, including smuggling and possession.
Xaysana Keopimpha, 41, had been dubbed an “ASEAN Drug Lord” and Thai authorities said he headed a network that supplied caffeine-laced methamphetamine tablets known as “yaba,” which were produced in Myanmar, throughout the Mekong River region.
Xaysana’s Thai lawyer, Vorakorn Pongthanakul on Tuesday promised a strong defense of his client that would include challenging an earlier confession. Vorakorn said his client confessed to a police investigator because while Thai and Lao are similar languages, Xaysana does not understand it or the country’s laws.
The lawyer said his client was worried because he had never been convicted of any crime. As for possible bail, family members in Laos are going to decide whether to apply.
“Now Xaysana is indicted and is becoming a defendant … he and I, as his lawyer, agreed that he would plead innocent and we will fight all the charges,” Vorakorn said following the arraignment in Bangkok North Criminal Court. “I felt somewhat heavy hearted because the charges carry the death penalty.”
The last execution in Thailand for any crime was in 2009.
Xaysana was arrested Jan. 19 at Bangkok’s Suvahnbhumi Airport following a five-year investigation and a tip from Laos officials, according to Lt. Gen. Sommai Kongvisaisuk, who heads the Thai police’s Narcotics Suppression Bureau.
A Malaysian suspect who was arrested by police in Malaysia in February, Kamarudin Bin Awang, was a trade partner of Xaysana, Thailand’s counter-narcotics chief said back then, Sommai said at the time.
Full story: BenarNews
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