Court upholds sentences for drug baron Lao Ta and son

Court upholds sentences for drug baron Lao Ta and son

Lao Ta Saenlee, then 77, arrives at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Dec 13, 2017, for judgement. He received life imprisonment. The Appeal Court on Thursday upheld the lower court's sentence. (File photo)
Lao Ta Saenlee, then 77, arrives at the Criminal Court in Bangkok on Dec 13, 2017, for judgement. He received life imprisonment. The Appeal Court on Thursday upheld the lower court's sentence. (File photo)

The Appeal Court on Thursday upheld the lower court's sentence of life imprisonment for drug baron Lao Ta Saenlee and a woman accomplice, and the death penalty for his son and a male accomplice.

They were earlier convicted of collusion in the sale of about 20 kilogrammes of crystal methamphetamine, caught in a "sting" by undercover agents in Chiang Mai three years ago.

Lao Ta’s wife was also involved and given life imprisonment, but she did not appeal.

The court’s ruling was read out at the Criminal Court.

Lao Ta, 80, and four others - his wife Asama, 70; Ms Rapeekan Saimul, 60; his son Wicharn Saenlee, 43, a former kamnan of tambon Tha Ton; and Buramee Barameekuakul, 40, all from Chiang Mai - were named as the first to fifth defendants in the case brought by public prosecutors on charges of drug trafficking and illegal possession of firearms.

The five defendants were arrested in Chiang Mai in 2016. A plainclothes policewoman first contacted Lao Ta's drug broker and ordered about a  kilogramme of crystal meth. Lao Ta delivered it at a petrol station he owned, and his wife received the agreed 550,000 baht in payment.

Police later placed a larger order, for 18.8kg, and were quoted 11 million baht. The arrest was made on Oct 11, 2016, during the delivery at the petrol station, where Lao Ta, his family and associates were present.

Police also seized military grade firearms and ammunition from them.

On Dec 13, 2017, the Criminal Court found the five defendants guilty on drug trafficking and weapons  charges. Lao Ta and his wife confessed. The court commuted his death penalty to life imprisonment and reduced her life imprisonment to 25 years. The couple were fined 2.5 million baht each.

The lower court also sentenced the third defendant, Rapeekan, to life imprisonment and a fine of five million baht.  

Lao Ta’s son Wicharn and Baramee denied the drug charges. They claimed they were only supervising the petrol station. The lower court found them guilty and sentenced them to death.

The first defendant appealed, seeking a reduction of the sentence. The third, fourth and fifth defendants appealed and insisted that they had not been involved. The second defendant did not appeal.

Lao Ta, Wicharn and Baramee were taken from Bang Kwang Prison to the court on Thursday to hear the judgement. Rapeekan was taken from the Central Women's Correctional Institution to the court.

The Appeal Court upheld the lower court’s sentences. 


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