Since the capture of notorious kingpin Xaysana “Vanlob” Keophimpha earlier this year, authorities have been on a manhunt for all of Xaysana’s known associates, including drug kingpin, Sisouk Daoheuang.
A senior official confirmed that the arrest of Sisouk was made by Lao authorities in Luang Prabang on Friday, and the suspect was transported to Vientiane Capital for questioning. However, the official maintains that details of the case still remain unclear and the investigation is still ongoing.
Though captured in Luang Prabang province, Sisouk is said to have owned and operated a used luxury car shop and a horse-riding business in Vientiane, both of which have since been closed.
Thai police major general Pornchai Charoenwongse, deputy chief of the Narcotic Suppression Bureau, has stated that Thai officials are preparing to travel to Vientiane to investigate the alleged felon and that the NSB officers are set to join the Narcotics Control Board in the interrogation expected to take place next week.
Sisouk, who fled authorities after the arrest of Xaysana, is suspected to be part of a major methamphetamines distribution network in Southeast Asia, operated by the 42-year-old Lao national.
As previously reported by The Laotian Times, Xaysana was arrested on Jan. 19 at Thailand’s Suvarnabhumi Airport following a five-year investigation by Lao and Thai authorities.
Authorities assert that the drug baron was distributing caffeine-laced meth tablets known as “yaba” throughout the region.
On Jan 10, police captured a major drug trafficker said to be even bigger than Xaysana, 50-year-old Khonpasong Soukkaseum, also known as Xiengther, along with three of his associates.
AT LEAST three policemen are facing investigation after being recognised in photos alongside alleged Lao drug lord Xaysana Keopimpha.
Two more celebrities, meanwhile, will be summoned for questioning in relation to the expanding investigation into Xaysana’s alleged drugs network in Thailand. Famous motorcycle racer Akarakit Worarojcharoendet, better known “Benz Racing”, was the first prominent figure to have his name linked to Xaysana.
National Police Commissioner Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda had ordered probes into reported links between three Thai police and Xaysana, Pol Colonel Krissana Pattanacharoen said yesterday, in his role as deputy spokesman of the National Police Office.
The investigations will start based on pictures showing the policemen posing alongside Xaysana, who was arrested at Suvarnabhumi Airport last month on drugs charges.
“The probes will determine what kinds of connections these police officers have had with the alleged drugs kingpin,” Krissana said.
Meanwhile, deputy chief of the Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) Pol Maj-General Pornchai Charoenwong said police would summon two more celebrities for questioning. “But I can’t disclose details yet,” he said.
Xaysana had portrayed himself as a rich and well-connected man from Laos, throwing many parties in Thailand and acquainting himself with well-known celebrities and other influential figures in recent years.
As the ongoing investigation into Xaysana’s alleged network has grown, police suspect that some celebrities in Thailand assisted him with money laundering and asset concealment.
Akarakit was the first Thai celebrity to be implicated in the scandal. His home and car-accessory shop were searched last week and he turned himself in to the NSB last Friday.
According to Akarakit, he does not know Xaysana personally but had borrowed Bt6 million from Nattapon Nakkam, who was recently arrested for allegedly facilitating drug deals for Xaysana.
“Nattapon and Akarakit have provided conflicting information about the purpose of the Bt6-million loan,” Pornchai said.
He also said Nattapon and Akarakit had transferred money back and forth for more than one year. “In this period, there were also some suspicious deposits in Akarakit’s bank accounts,” Pornchai added.
Asked about reports that Xaysana’s network may have also involved the children of former politicians, Pornchai said relevant authorities would look further into the details.
Police doubtful over Akarakit’s claim he bought lamborghini
THREE KEY agencies will discuss today possible links between an alleged Lao drug lord and Thai celebrities, including the son of a former famous politician.
“If the ongoing investigation delivers sufficient evidence, we will immediately take action. We will consider what we have now in our hands at our upcoming meeting,” Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NBS) deputy chief Pol Maj-General Pornchai Charoenwong said yesterday.
He was referring to the meeting of the NBS, the Office of Narcotics Control Board and the Anti-Money Laundering Office that will start at 10am today.
The meeting will focus on the alleged drugs-trafficking network of Xaysana Keopimpha, a high-profile Lao man who was arrested at Suvarnabhumi Airport last month.
Police believe Xaysana must have had an extensive network involving many members of Thailand’s so-called “high society” assisting him with money laundering and asset concealment.
Portraying himself as a rich and well-connected man from Laos, Xaysana cultivated relations with many prominent Thai figures at parties he hosted in the Kingdom.
Last Thursday, police searched the home and car-accessory shop of famous motorcycle racer Akarakit Worarojcharoendet, better known “Benz Racing”, on suspicion that he might have been affiliated with the alleged drugs network.
Akarakit, who is married to actress Napapa “Patt” Tantrakul, was not present during the search.
He turned himself in to the NSB last Friday claiming that he did not personally know Xaysana. He told police that he had borrowed Bt6 million from Nattapon Nakkam, who is now in police detention for allegedly facilitating Xaysana’s drug deals.
“We have still had some doubts as to whether the loan really took place,” Pornchai said, adding that Akarakit did not have sufficient evidence to back his claim.
Pornchai said police would probably summon Akarakit for questioning again.
Akarakit’s car-accessory shop was closed yesterday while residents in the area said they had not seen the bike-racing star since the scandal broke.
Pornchai said assets of drug traffickers would be confiscated, and available records showed Xaysana’s alleged network had huge assets.
Police suspect that Akarakit’s Lamborghini Gallardo SuperLeggera, which is worth more than Bt20 million, might actually belong to Xaysana.
Akarakit had said he bought the sports car using his own money and the Bt6 million that he had borrowed from Nattapon.
A medical doctor in Chiang Rai uses his drone to show how the Mekong will be changed forever if the plan to blast the rapids becomes a reality
The rocky shoals and rapids of the Mekong River are magnificent when viewed close to, but seen from the air they make a meaningful statement about the greatness of this river that rises in the Tibetan plateau and winds its way through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
It is this statement that medical doctor and keen environmentalist Sommai Eiawpradit is attempting to spread as he continues his photography of the mighty Mekong from the perspective of a drone and shares them with hundreds of others on the social media.
“My intention is to let other people see what I have photographed with my drone so they realise how beautiful and significant the Mekong River rapids really are,” says Sommai, a medical professional in Chiang Rai’s Chiang Khong District.
Sommai has always spent his time off capturing shots of his adopted town. And two years ago, when drone technology became cheaper and more readily available, he was quick to learn how to use one.
The technology, he says, has greatly improved his photographic skills and the resulting images can be used to campaign against the rapids blasting plan.
“I want the authorities to reconsider their decision to demolish the rapids, because once the rapids are gone, they can never be brought back. They will be gone forever together with the ecosystem and the way of life of the people who depend on them,” he says.
Sommai uses his private Facebook wall to share his photos both with his friends and the general public. The pictures have been well received by netizens and have been shared more than 349 times.
He has also given the collection to the local environmentalist group “Hak Chiang Khong” (“Love Chiang Khong”) for use in their campaign.
“This is only the first set of pictures of the Mekong River rapids. I am planning to use the drone to capture photos of all the rapids and features of the river in all three districts of Chiang Rai through which the Mekong flows. This month, I will send the drone up above the Kaeng Pha Dai rapids in Wiang Kaen District, which is also on the demolition list,” he says.
Sommai admits he is against the river navigation route improvement plan as a whole, pointing out that the profits earned from the project cannot compare to the losses that will be suffered by the local people and ecosystem of Mekong River once the project is completed.
“Removing the rapids means the complex ecosystem and traditional livelihood of the local people will disappear too. This is the most prominent side effect of this controversial project,” he explains
“With the rapids are gone, the river will lose its beauty forever. The river channel will also change and the boundary between Thailand and Laos will move. From the images the drone has taken, it’s obvious the border change will not be in our favour.
“Before making a decision to change the river forever, the governments of the countries through which the Mekong River flows should consider other options for transportation such as roads and railway.
“Of course river transportation is the cheapest option for Chinese merchants to transport their goods to the countries downstream but the damages from the project will be very expensive for the people, who depend on this river too,” he warns.
Residents stare at uncertain future as Cabinet gives nod to blasting of Mekong River rapids
THE rough hands of veteran ferry driver Chalin Cheableam steer a small boat up the river to the Khon Phee Lhong rapids on the Mekong River. In his late 50s and having navigated boats on the Mekong River since he was teenager, Chalin has many stories about the geographical signatures of the river and connections to local lore.
Residents stare at uncertain future as Cabinet gives nod to blasting of Mekong River rapids
Many rocky shoals (“khon”), sand-dune islands (“don”), and steep rocky riverbanks (“pha”) can be seen while travelling along the river. These geographical characteristics are unique to the Mekong River from Chiang Saern district in Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang in Laos, and for a long time local people have developed their culture and way of lives to be in harmony with the nature of the river.
However, he fears that everything is going to change, as an international project to improve the river’s navigation route, allowing barges larger than 500 tonnes gross to travel along the river all year round was approved by the Cabinet this month. This has caused wide concern among locals living along the river in Thailand.
Residents in Chiang Rai’s Chiang Khong district fear that the plan to improve the navigation route will kill the river’s ecosystem and destroy their livelihoods. They are concerned that their way of life and cultural identity, which is strongly associated with the river, will become history.
Khon Phee Lhong, a group of rocky shoals around a kilometre long in the river, can be seen above water during low tide and is an obstacle preventing large barges from passing through that area. It is on the list to be demolished.
“Khon Phee Lhong means the rapids [Khon] that the corpses [Phee] cannot make their way past on the river [Lhong],” Chalin said. “In the past, if someone drowned in the river upstream, the people would come here to search for the body because the turbulent current and whirlpools caused by underwater rocky rapids would bring the body from underwater to the surface and float in the area.”
Taking a long boat into Laos is about the cheapest way to get there from Thailand… its also two days long. A highlight of my trip in South East Asia. The natural beauty of the landscape and the culture of the people, make the two days seem like two hours.