Alleged drug lord 'had base in Philippines'

The suspected US drug kingpin arrested on Wednesday in Phuket only used Thailand to plan his transnational drug trafficking and based his narcotic operations in the Philippines, the Narcotics Suppression Bureau said.

Suspected US drug kingpin Joseph Manuel Hunter boards a charter flight at Don Mueang airport yesterday, destined for prosecution in the United States. Thai police arrested him and five alleged accomplices in Phuket on Wednesday. NARONG SANGNAK

Pol Maj Gen Chaiya Rujjanavet, commander of the Narcotics Suppression Division 1, said yesterday police have not found any evidence that Joseph Manuel Hunter's alleged cartel had operations elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

Thai authorities arrested Mr Hunter and five alleged accomplices - two Britons, a Slovakian, a Filipino and a Taiwanese - in Phuket on Wednesday, as requested by the United States.

It was earlier reported that their network also covered Myanmar, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Mr Hunter was brought to Bangkok on Thursday for questioning.

Yesterday morning, heavily armed Crime Suppression Division (CSD) commandos brought the handcuffed 47-year-old American who had served in the US Navy to Don Mueang airport, where he was taken aboard a charter flight back to the States for prosecution.

Pol Col Athip Thaennil, special operations chief of the CSD, led the motorcade to Don Mueang airport. He said Mr Hunter looked solemn during the drive.

Thai police arrested Mr Hunter as the US had revoked his passport, allowing them to deport him immediately.

Mr Hunter had arrived in Phuket on Sept 6 and had stayed there since. The US embassy was advised of his trip to Thailand and contacted Thai authorities. Mr Hunter will now stand trial in the US on drug trafficking charges.

Pol Maj Gen Chaiya said Interpol would trace other members of Mr Hunter's alleged drug gang.

The five other suspects arrested in Phuket appeared in court yesterday.

Four eastern European suspects in the same gang departed Phuket last Monday and they were arrested in Kenya and Nigeria on the same day as Mr Hunter was apprehended. Police said the four are believed to be killers and bodyguards working for Mr Hunter.

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Writer: Wassayos Ngamkham
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