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Thailand’s unending hunt for drug lord Yi Sae

Thailand’s unending hunt for drug lord Yi Sae

BANGKOK: In Thailand’s unending battle against drug trafficking, Yi Sae’s name stands out among drug enforcement officers of this kingdom which has put a 5-million Baht (about RM632,000) bounty for his arrest. Yi Sae or Chaiwat Pornsakulpaisarn has been called the “Godfather of Methamphetamine” by the authorities as he is alleged to be the mastermind of smuggling of most of the synthetic drugs into Thailand, for it to be exported to other countries in the region and other parts of the world.

“He is one of the most wanted men in Thailand. He is the ‘Godfather of Methamphetamine’ as he smuggles huge amounts of the drugs into Thailand, before the drugs make their way to Malaysia and other countries, depending on the drug routes,” Narcotics Suppression Bureau (NSB) head, Lt Gen Sommai Kingvisaisuk told Bernama, here, recently. Nabbing the highly sought-after drug lord, according to him, would not be easy as the man whom the authorities estimate to be in his late 60’s, lives in the southern part of Wa State, an unrecognised state in Myanmar that is subsumed under the official Wa Special Region 2 of northern Shan State. The central government exerts little control over affairs in Wa State, which has propelled the autonomous area, located at the centre of the “Golden Triangle”, to become one of the most productive drug-producing regions in Myanmar.

According to the United Nations, the “Golden Triangle” which straddles the border of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand has now become the world’s largest producer of synthetic drugs, while at the same time maintaining its global position as one of the biggest producers of heroin.

From his base in the southern part of Wa State which borders Thailand’s Mae Fah Luang district in Chiang Rai, Yi Sae uses the mountainous and porous border which separates the two countries to smuggle large amounts of drugs into the kingdom.

According to Sommai, Yi Sae, an ethnic Lahu who is suspected of possessing dual Myanmar-Thailand citizenship, is also a militia leader and commands a well-armed group, which could make any effort to bring him to justice either in Myanmar or Thailand, to be too risky and near impossible.

Despite that risk, Thailand, he said, had issued three arrest warrants on the drug lord and had even sought the cooperation of Yangon to capture him. However, even the Myanmar government is thought to be reluctant to send its enforcement officers to southern Wa State in search of Yi Sae and senior members of his drug syndicate, for fear of sparking an armed conflict with his group.

Furthermore, said Sommai, the Myanmar government was currently engaged in a peace process with the numerous ethnic groups in the country. Efforts to curtail Yi Sae’s well-oiled syndicate from smuggling large amounts of drugs into Thailand has been successful to some extent as evidenced in recent operations where the authorities managed to seize 26 million Yaba (Crazy) pills and 130 kg of crystal methamphetamine (Ice). National Police chief, Gen Chakthip Chaijinda had said that the drugs valued at 4 billion Baht (about RM550 million) were sourced from southern Wa State in Myanmar, a known lair for Yi Sae and his drug syndicate. Besides the recent operations, Thai authorities have also been going after individuals suspected of being involved in laundering money belonging to Yi Sae and other drug syndicates. This followed the arrest of a Myanmar woman in Bangkok last month, where police found cash flow of 10 billion Baht (about RM1.3 billion) a year in her bank account and several other accounts which raised suspicion among Thailand’s drug enforcement officers.

The woman who came from Tachileik, a Thai Myanmar border town well known for its methamphetamine factories, according to Sommai, was suspected of acting as a “money woman” for several drug syndicates including Yi Sae’s.