Thai maid sentenced to death for drugs in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR - A Thai woman was sentenced to death on Monday after a Malaysian high court found her guilty of trafficking drugs, Bernama news agency reported.

Duangchit Khonthokhonbari, 33, who had been working in Malaysia as a maid, was caught with 2.81 kilogrammes (6.2 pounds) of methamphetamine at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in March last year.

Anyone with at least 50 grams of methamphetamine is considered a trafficker in Malaysia and subject to the death penalty.

Defence lawyers could not be reached for immediate comment, but Duangchit is expected to appeal against the death sentence, which is carried out by hanging in Malaysia.

The verdict comes just days after an Australian mother-of-four, Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, was also charged with drug trafficking in Malaysia.

A customs check at the airport on December 7 discovered 1.5 kilogrammes of crystal methamphetamine, or "ice," in a hidden compartment in her bag.

Her lawyers insist she was innocently duped into carrying a bag that appeared to contain only clothing by a stranger in Shanghai.

Exposto is due to appear in court again on January 23, when a chemist's report on the suspected drugs will be submitted.

Hundreds of Malaysians and foreigners are on death row in the Muslim-majority country, many for drug-related offences, though few have been executed in recent years.

Two Australians were hanged in 1986 for heroin trafficking - the first Westerners executed in Malaysia - in a case that strained bilateral relations.

Last year Dominic Bird, a truck driver from Perth, was acquitted on drug trafficking charges after he was allegedly caught with 167 grams of crystal methamphetamine.