Vietnam court upholds drug smuggler's death sentence

Vietnam's Supreme Court has refused to commute the death sentence of a 24-year-old Thai woman who smuggled narcotics into the country, according to the Saigon Daily.

The Supreme People's Court in Ho Chi Minh City has upheld the lower court's death sentence against Preeyanooch Phuttharaksa, the newspaper said on its website.

Preeyanuch was arrested in October of last year after customs officials at Tan Son Nhut Airport found more than three kilogrammes of methamphetamine hidden inside her luggage. Before her arrest, Preeyanuch had sneaked drugs into Vietnam twice, according to the indictment.

She was handed the death penalty on June 26 by the People's Court and she later appealed to a higher court.

Preeyanuch, a student, had confessed to having been paid 50,000 baht by a Nigerian drug gang to bring the drugs into Vietnam from the west African country of Benin. She had met her Nigerian contact originally at a mall in Bangkok.

Thai officials have said that even if the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence, she could still petition the Vietnamese president for mercy. Vietnam executes criminals with lethal injections, which replaced the firing squad last year.

Statistics from the Thai Foreign Ministry show that about 100 Thai women are currently being detained for drug trafficking in several countries, including China, India, United Arab Emirates, Spain, Brazil and South Africa.

Some of them had married citizens of African countries and were forced to become involved in the trans-national drug trade, officials say.