Drug kingpins continue crime business in prison

Drug kingpins continue crime business in prison

Prisons are now drug dealing hubs run with family outside prison & mobile phones. Prison staff help & share in the profits.

Prison walls don't stop big-time drug peddlers, who are not stopped by jail sentences and continue to efficiently manage their illicit rings from inside prison using mobile phones.


Guards, mobile phones key to inmates' drug deals

Prisons turn into hubs for outside drug trade
Nauvarat Suksamran and King-oua Laohong

Iron bars may limit the freedom of inmates, but they have failed to prevent inmates from carrying on the drug dealing that put them in prison in the first place.

Large prisons in recent years have turned from correctional facilities into the nerve centres for distribution of drugs, with several high-profile convicts refusing to give up the illicit trade even once incarcerated.

Advanced communication technology has torn down the prison walls intended to keep the inmates away from the outside world. Mobile phones have become a prized tool of necessity for the inmates.

Mobile phones are smuggled into the prisons by various, sometimes bizarre, means. Authorities have reported a contraband device being lodged inside the rectum of a transvestite hired by a fellow inmate to hide the phone. The smuggler was caught and the hidden item fell out when he was made to do a squat jump by suspicious warders.

Some mobile phones are air-dropped by drones or simply sling-shotted or tossed over the prison walls. Others are stuffed inside footballs, tennis balls or soft drink cans. Prison staff have caught people inserting a mobile phone SIM card into a steak relatives delivered to the inmates.

The smuggling of the phones would not be successful without the help of prison staff who are paid to look the other way. They also claim a cut from the fortune made in the drug trade, effectively making them retainers of the convicts.

The phones thrown or propelled over the prison walls are collected by prison officials who hand them to the inmates. They do not land very far from the walls.

The active intra-drug dealing network is headed by big-time inmates or convicts, many of whom are on death row or serving life sentences. Drug crimes are regarded as among the severest forms of offence and are punishable by a lengthy jail terms, a life sentence or even death.

At the top of the drug dealing chain are inmates or convicts, many of whom are drug kingpins. They pick up the phones smuggled in for them and place orders for illicit drugs from suppliers, many of whom are based across the borders.

As the drug trade is fiercely guarded and conducted on the basis of personal trust, the suppliers and traffickers are more inclined to do business with the dealers they know, even if they are behind bars.

The drug-dealing prisoners fall into four groups according to their levels of influence and acumen, which dictate the amounts of drugs, mostly methamphetamine or ya ba, they can order from suppliers.

The biggest names, or jek pua, can order up to 5 million speed pills at a time while the lesser-known drug convicts or inmates, known as kor pua, reserve a maximum purchase quota of 300,000 tablets per order.

The nor pua, on the other hand, belong in a tier where their order ceiling goes up to 100,000 tablets a time. The lowest ranks are the sa pua who can order a small amount of methamphetamine or other drugs.

One of those in the jek pua hierarchy is the notorious Klong Toey drug kingpin Sayam Sapworasit, alias Parp 70 Rai. He was sentenced in 2004 by the Criminal Court for laundering between 200 million and 500 million baht in profits from drug businesses.

The drug trade involving inmates requires multi-party collaboration. The inmates have been in the trade long enough to know who wants what drugs.

The inmates would phone drug suppliers and arrange for couriers to deliver the drugs to customers. The customers pay a "cashier", who may be the inmate's relative, who opened proxy bank accounts to receive the payments.

A portion of the money wired to the accounts is used to settle the bills with the drug suppliers. The drug kingpins keep the couriers and the cashiers separate. If they knew one another, the "drug trading loop" would be complete without the kingpins, which would make them dispensable in the trade.

As of Aug 1, the nation's jails held 236,267 prisoners. Of these, 70% faced drug or drug-related charges and of them, an estimated 800-900 are major drug traders, including the kingpins who continue to trade in drugs behind bars.

Some convicts jailed for murder have joined drug dealing inmates. Some who have served their time are also drawn back to drug gangs after they are discharged.

An investigation has uncovered hundreds of thousands of baht passing through each drug inmates' bank account in a single day. One drug trader in the Northeast opened more than 30 accounts held in the names of proxies.

The source said the inmates usually make phone calls or send short messages at night when they retire to their cells. Overcrowding has resulted in a lax internal surveillance, allowing the remote ordering of drugs to thrive.

Authorities have raided the maximum-security Khlong Prem Prison and large provincial prisons at Khao Bin in Ratchaburi, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Ayutthaya and at Khlong Pai in Nakhon Ratchasima.

They discovered many proxy bank accounts had been opened in the names of relatives of the drug trader inmates. The five prisons, along with the Bang Kwang and Rayong prisons, have been under close surveillance.

Each year, 3,000 mobile phones are seized from inmates from the major prisons. Entry-level phones which normally sell for a little more than 1,000 baht apiece cost 10 times more when they reach the prison. A sophisticated smart phone is known to have changed hands for 1 million baht.

Prison staff have been arrested for turning a blind eye on the illegal activity. Gen Paiboon Kumchaya, the deputy chief of the National Council for Peace and Order, has visited prisons after hearing drug dealing was taking place with the connivance of prison staff.

He has ordered a drastic prosecution of wrongdoers. The council also insisted there must be "zero" drug dealing in prisons.


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  • account: bank account; money kept in a bank - บัญชี
  • acumen: the ability to understand and decide things quickly and well - ความมีไหวพริบเฉียบแหลม, ความฉลาดเฉียบแหลม
  • advanced (adj): having the most modern and recently developed ideas, methods, etc - ก้าวหน้า, สมัยใหม่
  • alias: used when a person, especially a criminal or an actor, is known by two names; used before a different name that someone uses instead of their real name - ฉายา, สมญานาม
  • bar: a long straight piece of metal or wood - ท่อน
  • behind bars: in prison - การจำคุก
  • cashier: a person whose job is to receive and pay out money in a bank, shop/store, hotel, etc. - พนักงานรับจ่ายเงิน
  • ceiling: an upper limit - เพดาน ขีดจำกัด
  • collaboration: working together with someone else - การร่วมมือ
  • communications (noun): the process of sending information through television, radio, telephone signals and the internet - การสื่อสาร
  • convict: someone who is or has been in prison because they have committed a crime - นักโทษ, ผู้ที่ถูกตัดสินว่ามีความผิด
  • correctional facilities: prisons -
  • courier: a person or company whose job is to take packages, important papers or, in this case, illegal drugs, somewhere - ผู้ส่งสาร
  • Criminal Court: a court which hears criminal cases, i.e., cases where people are accused of breaking a law and where punishment involves going to jail. - ศาลอาญา
  • deal (noun): a formal agreement, especially in business or politics - ข้อตกลง, การตกลงซื้อขาย, การซื้อขาย
  • deliver: to take goods, letters, etc. to the people they have been sent to - ส่ง
  • dictate: to influence or control how something is done - ควบคุม บงการ
  • distribution: the process of giving something out to many different places - การแจกจ่าย
  • efficiently: done in an effective, organised way - อย่างมีประสิทธิภาพ
  • facility (noun): a building, equipment, etc., used for a particular purpose - โรงงาน, สถานบริการ, สิ่งก่อสร้าง, สิ่งอำนวยความสะดวก
  • freedom: the state of not being a prisoner - อิสรภาพ, เสรีภาพ
  • hierarchy: a system, especially in a society or an organization, in which people are organized into different levels of importance from highest to lowest - การจัดระบบตามลำดับขั้น
  • high-profile: receiving a lot of attention from the public - ที่มีชื่อ ที่ได้รับความสนใจจากสาธารณชน
  • illicit: against the law - ผิดกฎหมาย
  • incarcerated: kept in a prison - ถูกขังคุก, ถูกจำคุก
  • influence: to affect or change how someone or something develops, behaves or thinks - มีอิทธิพลต่อ, ชักจูง อำนาจบังคับ
  • inmate: someone who is kept in a prison, mental hospital or other institution - ผู้ถูกกักกัน, ผู้ถูกกักบริเวณในเรือนจำหรือโรงพยาบาล
  • iron bar: a long narrow piece of iron - แท่งเหล็ก
  • laundering: money laundering; laundering money; hiding the origin of money obtained from illegal activities by putting it into legal businesses - การฟอกเงิน
  • level: a position or rank in a scale of size or importance - ระดับ
  • limit: to stop something from increasing beyond a particular amount or level - จำกัด
  • maximum: the most possible - ที่สูงสุด ที่มากที่สุด
  • methamphetamine: a stimulant drug that increases alertness and energy, but which is dangerous when taken in large amounts or over a long period of time - ยาบ้า
  • multi-: more than one; many - มาก, หลาย
  • nerve ((n)): One of the whitish and elastic bundles of fibers, with the accompanying tissues, which transmit nervous impulses between nerve centers and various parts of the animal body. - เส้นประสาท
  • notorious: famous for something bad - ซึ่งมีชื่อเสียงในทางไม่ดี
  • on the other hand: and looking at the opposite situation .... or another situation ... - ตรงกันข้าม
  • order: to ask for goods you will buy -
  • party (noun): one of the people or groups of people involved in a situation, an official argument or arrangement - คู่กรณี
  • peddler: a person who sells illegal drugs - คนขายยาผิดกฎหมาย
  • pill: a small flat round piece of medicine that you swallow without chewing it - ยาเม็ด
  • portion: a part of something - ส่วน
  • prison: a place where criminals are put to stay for a period of time as punishment for a crime - คุก, ,เรือนจำ
  • prisoner: a person who is kept in prison as a punishment, or while they are waiting for trial - นักโทษ
  • profit: money that you make from selling goods and services after all your costs have been paid - กำไร
  • proxy: a person or company who acts for another person or company - ตัวแทน
  • purchase: the process of buying something - การซื้อ
  • quota: an amount of something that someone is officially allowed to have or do - โควตา
  • rank: to put someone or something into a position according to their success, importance, size etc - จัดลำดับ
  • refuse (verb): to say or show that you will not do something; to say or show that you will not do something that someone has asked you to do - ปฏิเสธ
  • relative: a member of your family - ญาติพี่น้อง
  • ring: a group of people involved in an activity, especially an illegal one - กลุ่มคณะ
  • sentence : (of a court of law) to give a punishment - ลงโทษ
  • sentence : a punishment given by a court of law - การตัดสินลงโทษ
  • settle (verb): to decide or arrange something finally, especially a debt - จ่ายหนี้, ชำระเงิน, ปิดบัญชี
  • supplier: a person or company that supplies goods - ผู้จัดหาสิ่งของให้, ผู้ผลิตสินค้าและวัตถุดิบ
  • tablet: a small round solid piece of medicine or other substance that you swallow - ยาเม็ดแบน
  • tiers: rows or layers of something, each at a different height -
  • torn: past tense of "tear" to pull something so that it separates into pieces or gets a hole in it, or to become damaged in this way - ฉีก
  • trade: the buying and selling of goods and services - การค้าขาย
  • wire: to send somebody a message by telegram - ส่งโทรเลข
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