The arrest of a Malaysian national with links to Southeast Asia’s drug kingpin Xaysana Keopimpha is slowly unraveling and revealing the extent of the drug ring’s impact on the political upheaval in South Thailand.
In a trickle, the arrests are revealing the role played by the Malaysian wing of the Laotian network in the region.
The Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) of Thailand said Malaysian police have arrested a suspected major drug dealer allegedly linked to Lao drug kingpin Xaysana Keopimpha, who was arrested at the Suvarnabhumi airport on a flight from Phuket.
What we know is Kamarudin bin Awang, a Malaysian national, was arrested in Kelantan on Monday.
An investigation led police to believe Kamarudin is the son-in-law of Marining Jako, the leader of a drug network which receives drugs from the North and Northeast of Thailand.
Thai police is said to have been monitoring Kamarudin for five years, leading to his arrest in Kelantan.
The Thai narcotics bureau chief said he believed the money from Kamarudin’s drug trade have partially been used to sponsor the unrest in the insurgency-plagued South in Thailand.
The arrest was not reported in Malaysian newspapers, but the information was given to Thai based newspapers by NSB chief Sommai Kongwisaisuk. He cited information he received from Malaysian authorities.
So far, there is no comment on the Thai police accusation that Kamarudin is suspected to be the Malaysian linchpin in the Laotian drug network.
Malaysia has also refrained to comment on the case since the arrest of Xaysana.
More than 30 million baht in cash was also found stashed in pipes at Kamarudin’s residence, Thai police said, who said the Malaysian received drugs from the North before shifting them further to Malaysia through southern Thailand.
Reports indicate he was also involved in the drug trade with one Usaman Salaemaeng, who is on the run, wanted by Thai authorities on drug charges in the warrant issued in 2012.
Kamarudin is said to have three homes in the Muslim-majority far South in Thailand.
However, Thail Police says they are checking with their Malaysian counterparts to determine to what extent the suspect is linked with Xaysana.
Following his arrest at the Suvarnabhumi Airport on Jan 19, the suspected Laotian drug kingpin Xaysana Keopimpha, or “Mr X” as he is more commonly known, has become the subject of wide media fascination across the region.
Authorities are now working round-the-clock to uncover the vast narcotics cross-border network that spans Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Thailand’s narcotics chief Sommai Kongvisaisuk, was quoted by Malaysian news agency Bernama as saying that police have gathered information on Mr X’s connection with Malaysian drug syndicates and were looking to unearth the inner workings of his network.
“All the (big) cases involving a Malaysian syndicate trying to smuggle drugs from Thailand into Malaysia pointed to the involvement of Xaysana.
“The Malaysian syndicate got its drugs from Xaysana’s network,” he said, adding that the arrest was the result of over five years of investigation.
Several media reports said the 41-year-old alleged drug baron was arrested at the airport in front of many passengers as he disembarked a flight from resort island Phuket along with a man and two women who were not identified.
Thai police have obtained a warrant for another five suspects.
With the arrest, Thai and Laotian police seized 74 items, including two residences, 14 land titles, 14 luxury cars, 11 motorbikes, two farm vehicles, 29 bank accounts, gold jewelry and cash in U.S. Dollars and Thai Baht equaling THB1.5 (US$42,000).
The total haul was valued at roughly THB100 million (US$2.8 million), according to the Laotian Times.