ALLEGED drug baron Laota Sanli, who escaped legal custody many times, was arrested again yesterday in Chiang Mai province in the North, together with 13 others for narcotic smuggling.
Pol Maj-General Sommai Kong-wisaisuk, acting commissioner of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, led the sting himself and arrested the suspects inside a petrol station in Mae Ai district when they allegedly delivered 20 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, or “ice”, to undercover police.
The petrol station, named Laota Petroleum after him, is located in Mae Ai border district. Weapons were also seized during the operation. The police used Bt11 million to trap the alleged drug lord, Sommai said.
He said the operation was planned for a year after informants told the bureau that Laota, who was acquitted in a controversial drug case, had allegedly begun trafficking drugs again.
Laota, 79, was acquitted by the Supreme Court in 2007 after being arrested four years earlier and fighting a long legal battle against claims he was involved in heroin trafficking. The court freed him on grounds that prosecutors lacked solid evidence to punish him. However, the Civil Court ruled that his Bt2 million in assets must be confiscated, as it believed he obtained them from illicit drug trading.
It was widely believed that the ageing hilltribe man Laota used to work with Khun Sa, the notorious drug lord renowned as one of the key players in the Golden Triangle, but he said he only knew Khun Sa from |television, not real life.
The Shan-Chinese Khun Sa, who led the Mong Tai Army, an ethnic armed group in fighting against Myanmar forces for many years, surrendered in 1996 and died in 2007 in Yangon. There was no clear information about the link between the two.
Four years ago, Laota told The Nation’s Thai-language sister newspaper Kom Chad Luek that he had never been involved in illicit drugs but planted coffee and had coffee outlets in Mae Ai to earn a living. He was arrested previously because he could not come to terms with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose ‘War on Drugs’ killed thousands of drug dealers.
Former police chief Pol-General Phiewphan Damapong, who led an operation to arrest him in 2003, was a relative of Thaksin’s former wife.
Laota blamed Thaksin for labelling him as a drug kingpin and putting him in jail for four years before the court freed him.
But he now faces the possibility of spending many of his remaining years in jail.
Published : October 11, 2016
By : The Nation