Government prosecuting 157 corrupt officials, drug kingpin

The government is showing no let-up in its campaign against crime and corruption, pressing 157 court cases against state officials last week on a range of charges from siphoning off funds meant for poor farmers to bid rigging on contracts, while a Thai court sentenced a captured Laotian drug kingpin to life in prison.

A judge at the Criminal Court in Bangkok handed down the life sentence to the Laotian drug lord, Xaysana Keopimpha, after he was found guilty of smuggling 1.2 million methamphetamine pills into Thailand from neighboring Laos in 2016. He was arrested in January 2017 at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok after police had conducted an investigation and tracked his movements.

Other members of his transnational narcotics syndicate had been arrested three months earlier. Confronted with evidence and facing either the death penalty or long prison sentences, they implicated Xaysana as their boss. He is also facing separate charges in a case involving the smuggling of 3.38 million methamphetamine pills. The drugs were destined to be sold in both Thailand and Malaysia.

The court had originally sentenced Xaysana to death for narcotics smuggling, but reduced the sentence after he began cooperating with the court and police.

Neighboring countries are used as safe havens by narcotics producers and traffickers because of weaker government control over certain geographic areas, inefficient law enforcement and porous borders with Thailand. The area, along with a portion of northern Thailand, was known for decades as The Golden Triangle for its opium and heroin production. In recent decades, syndicates have concentrated more on amphetamines and other synthetic drugs.

Although Thailand has largely eliminated opium cultivation, corruption remains a longstanding problem, as in many developing countries, and strong efforts by the Thai government to crack down on corruption, especially among state officials.

Last week the spokesman for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) announced that 157 cases of graft and malfeasance involving state officials had been given to prosecutors and the courts.

The cases came from complaints and tipoffs, many to a telephone hotline. The spokesman, Colonel Sirichan Ngathong, said authorities have received a total of 3,664 complaints. The cases already forwarded to the justice system were ones in which evidence was strong. But other cases are still being investigated and pursued, he said, and could result in more prosecutions.