US drugs trio face charges at home too
The Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) officials are seeking help from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to prosecute three Thai nationals under Thai law for their suspected involvement in a Yakuza alleged to have acquired weaponry for rebel groups in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
Wichai Chaimongkhon, the ONCB secretary-general, said yesterday that Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin has ordered the prosecution of suspects Sompak Rukrasaranee, Somphob Singhasiri and Suksan Jullanan.
They were apprehended in New York last Monday and Tuesday along with alleged gang leader Takeshi Ebisawa on drugs and arms trafficking and money laundering charges, according to the US Justice Department.
The men had arranged to sell an undercover agent large quantities of heroin and methamphetamine from the rebel United Wa State Army in Myanmar.
Mr Ebisawa, meanwhile, sought to buy automatic weapons, rockets, machine guns and surface-to-air missiles for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka and the militant United Wa State Army, Karen National Union and Shan State Army in Myanmar.
The US Justice Department said the drugs were destined for New York streets, and identified Mr Ebisawa as "a leader of the Yakuza transnational organised crime syndicate". Mr Suksan holds dual Thai-American citizenship while Mr Somphob and Mr Sompak are Thai citizens.
Mr Wichai said Thailand's anti-narcotics laws stipulate that Thai nationals who commit severe, drug-related crimes can be tried in Thailand regardless of where the offence was committed.
The ONCB has formally requested details of the arrests and a copy of the evidence that underpins the criminal charges.
After vetting the information sent by the DEA, the suspects are likely to be formally charged and a warrant for their arrest issued.
Even if the US does not extradite the suspects to the kingdom, the authorities can proceed to seize any assets held in Thailand.
"The statute of limitations for a case of this nature spans up to 30 years with the death sentence as the maximum punishment," the ONCB chief said.
In the event extradition is not forthcoming and the suspects are jailed in the US, Thai authorities can wait until the men are released before having them re-arrested and brought to Thailand to stand trial here.
Mr Wichai said he can confirm that the three men are not former or current military officers.
They were part of a gang trafficking illicit drugs from the Golden Triangle and officials are expanding their investigation to identify other suspects in the gang.