Alleged Lao drug lord Xaysana Keopimpha yesterday denied in a Bangkok court that he was a major player in a regional drug network.
Xaysana, 42, was arrested at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport in January. He is believed to be the mastermind behind a network that smuggled drugs from Laos to Thailand for sale in the southern provinces of Thailand and other ASEAN countries, including Malaysia and Singapore.
He was charged with smuggling methamphetamine, known in Thailand as "yaba", and possession of narcotics.
"He denies all the charges," his lawyer Vorakon Phongtanakul said in Criminal Court, adding his client had also backtracked on a confession he allegedly signed while in police custody. Vorakon said Xaysana did not understand Thai laws and said officials told him he could change his plea when he appeared in court.
Police have reported that Xaysana flaunted his wealth by posting photos boasting of his wealth and showing off his luxury sports cars as well as holding extravagant parties to entertain celebrities in Thailand and Laos.
The court scheduled June 19 for a pre-trial examination of evidence. Vorakorn said that Xaysana was worried about his detention because he had never previously been convicted of any offence. His family in Laos would decide whether to apply for bail, he added.
Public prosecutors have alleged that Xaysana and his network in Laos procured drugs and vehicles to hide the contraband as they smuggled drugs from Laos through Thailand into Malaysia. Specifically, Xaysana and members of his alleged network are accused of smuggling 1.2 million yaba pills hidden in a secret compartment of a vehicle through Nong Khai province on September 30, 2016.
Prosecutors said they would oppose a bail request as the penalty involved in the case was severe.