The arrest of one of South-East Asia's top drug lords, Laos national Xaysana Keopimpha by the Thai police recently has enabled the authorities to unearth a lot of information on the inner workings of his network.
According to Thailand's Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) chief, Lt-Gen Sommai Kongvisaisuk, among the information they uncovered from the Laotian or 'Mr X' as he was known, was his connection with a Malaysian drug syndicate.
"All the (big) cases involving a Malaysian syndicate trying to smuggle drugs from Thailand into Malaysia pointed to the involvement of Xaysana. The Malaysian syndicate got its drugs from Xaysana's network," he told Bernama in an exclusive interview at his office in Bangkok recently.
Based on the investigation, said Sommai, the same Malaysian syndicate had masterminded an attempt by 21 Malaysians in March last year to smuggle 226kg of methamphetamine and 8kg of heroin using the train as their mode of transportation.
Fifteen of the 21 Malaysian men were apprehended by Thai authorities while travelling on a train en route to Butterworth from Bangkok, while six others were nabbed in a van
in southern Thailand trying to make a dash for the border.
All the men have been charged and are currently awaiting trial.
"We keep on investigating and digging for new information. We tracked the syndicate which led to new arrests. It all pointed to the same Malaysian syndicate," said the NSB
In a follow-up operation on March 30, he said, Thai authorities detained two Malaysians in two cars with 282 kg of methamphetamine at the Sadao immigration checkpoint,
which also involved Xaysana's network.
He said the Thai authorities continued their investigation and busted another attempt to smuggle 500 kg of methamphetamine into Malaysia on Dec 17, with the arrest of seven Thai nationals in Chumphon.
The large haul of drugs according to a high-ranking NSB officer in a recent interview, was to be dropped off in Takbai, Narathiwat before being smuggled into Malaysia via the narrow Sungai Golok which separates the two countries.
"All these cases are inter-related and masterminded by the same Malaysian syndicate, with the investigation showing the involvement of Xaysana," said Sommai, adding that the arrest of two Malaysians in Chumphon on Dec 11 was also connected to that syndicate.
In the Chumphon incident, Thai authorities found 52.4kg of pure heroin and 41kg of methamphetamine hidden in the suspects' car and the drugs were meant to be smuggled into Malaysia and brought to Penang.
Interestingly, the 52.4kg of pure heroin was neatly packaged with the infamous brand 'Double UOGlobe', which is synonymous with one of the drug factories hidden in the
deep Laotian jungle.
Asked on the final destinations of all these intercepted drugs, Sommai said most of the drugs were destined for foreign markets such as Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Philippines
and the United States.
"The amount of the confiscated drugs is too big for the Malaysian market alone. It will destroy the country," he said, adding that Thai and Malaysian drug enforcement authorities maintained good relations and cooperation.
The 41-year-old 'Mr X', nicknamed the Asean region's drug lord by the Thai authorities for his region-wide drug network including Singapore, was arrested in the busy Suvarnabhumi Airport on Jan 19.
Thai authorities said Xaysana was involved in various business interests in his native Laos including owning hotels, a sawmill, car distributorship and other business entities.
Despite the arrest of the Laotian, the NSB chief believes the fight against drug syndicates and drug smuggling is far from over as "other Xaysanas" will take over and assume his role.
"Besides Xaysana, there are other drug lords out there who can take over his role," Sommai said, adding that the fight against the drug menace would not stop with the arrest of the Laotian.