'Lao connection' to Mr X arrested

Sisouk Daoheuang was arrested in Luang Prabang on the weekend. Thai investigators will likely be given permission to interview him in Vientiane. (Photo via RFA)

The Narcotics Control Board (NCB) is preparing to question Lao celebrity Sisouk Daoheuang who was arrested last weekend by Lao authorities for alleged links to compatriot and drug kingpin suspect Xaysana "Mr X" Keopimpha.

Officials who detained Mr Sisouk in Luang Prabang on Saturday found no drugs in his possession but an ongoing investigation suggests the celebrity is suspected of having "conspired with others to trade drugs", NCB secretary-general Sirinya Sitthichai said yesterday.

His arrest follows collaboration between Thai and Lao drug officials. The Lao authorities were given information by their Thai counterparts which implicates Mr Sisouk in a drug network in connection with the two long-wanted Lao nationals arrested earlier - Mr Xaysana and Khonpasong Soukkaseum. Both are now in custody.

Mr Sisouk was caught by Lao police in Luang Prabang province on Saturday, and was taken to the capital Vientiane for investigation, Lao sources said. He had been on the wanted list for three months.

"They arrested [Mr Sisouk] in Luang Prabang province", aid a senior official from the Lao Ministry of Public Security, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Thai Pol Maj Gen Pornchai Charoenwongse, deputy chief of the Narcotic Suppression Bureau (NSB), told Radio Free Asia by telephone on Sunday that officials would meet on Monday to prepare a "directive to travel to Vientiane to investigate Sisouk."

Mr Sisouk, who had been wanted since Mr Xaysana was arrested at Suvarnabhumi airport in January, had sold used and luxury cars, and operated a horse-riding business in Vientiane. The businesses have been closed.

"A check on Mr Sisouk's financial information found links with a drug production site" connected with Mr Xaysana and Mr Khonpasong, Mr Sirinya said.

Mr Sisouk reportedly admitted to Lao police he knows Mr Xaysana but claimed he has nothing to do with any drug networks.

NCB officials are asking Lao authorities to jointly question Sisouk, hoping to get information to track down other drug suspects.

The Narcotics Suppression Bureau will also send police to join the NCB in the questioning expected to take place next week, said deputy bureau chief Phonchai Charoenwong.

An initial probe found "Mr Sisouk sent drugs via Thai drug gangs to the South and exported them to Malaysia", Mr Sirinya alleged.

Authorities say Mr Xaysana was supplying caffeine-laced meth tablets or yaa baa, produced in Myanmar, throughout the region.

Known as Mr X, Mr Xaysana led a lavish lifestyle that included contacts with high-society figures in Bangkok and around the region, a fleet of exotic cars and at least five houses.

On Feb 15, Lao police had a press conference to inform the media of arrests of 33 drugs dealers and traffickers from September of last year through January, 2017.

Earlier, on Jan 10, Lao police arrested 50-year-old Khonpasong Soukkaseum, also known as Xiengther, along with three of his associates.

At the press conference, Thonglek Mangnormek, director of the General Department of Police under the Ministry of Public Security, described Mr Khonpasong as "a major drug trader, bigger than Xaysana".

Police in Laos and Thailand still are seeking Xiengphet Lattana and his wife, Boua Lattana, relatives of Mr Khonpasong.

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