Authorities in Laos last week sentenced eight people to death for their roles in connection with the major Southeast Asian drug ring run by drug kingpin Xaysana Keopimpha, better known as Mr. X.
Fourteen others connected with the ring were handed sentences ranging from two to 20 years.
A clerk at the Vientiane People’s Court confirmed the death sentences to RFA’s Lao Service Monday.
“They are sentenced to death. They can appeal their sentences if they file within the next 30 days. Additionally they can hire their own lawyers or consult the court for advice,” the clerk said.
The Lao Phatthana Daily identified the eight using singular names in a report published Saturday.
The group includes five men, Kinoy, 36; Vat, 41; Konpasong, 43; Phetsakone, 24; and Maysengsone, 42; and three women; Pavina, 19; Vat’s wife Keo, 39; and Konpasong’s wife Manyvanh, 43.
They were convicted on charges of purchasing and selling heroin and meth, weapons trade, buying and selling stolen property, money laundering, and assault.
Sisouk Daoheuang, who is believed to have been Xaysana’s second-in-command, will be sentenced separately at a later date.
Xaysana himself was arrested with two accomplices in Jan. 2017 in Bangkok Thailand. A Thai lower court initially sentenced him to death in 2018, but this was reduced to a life sentence because he confessed during the investigation.
RFA reported in December that Xaysana’s life sentence was upheld by a Thai appellate court.
According to documents from the lower court case in 2018, several members of Mr. X’s gang were arrested in 2016 for hiding 1.2 million meth pills in an SUV they used to cross the First Lao-Thai Mekong Friendship Bridge between Vientiane, Laos and Nong khai, Thailand.
Thai police interrogated the suspects, who revealed they were working for Xaysana. From there they were able to expose the size and scope of the drug smuggling network.
The “steep increase” in seizures of meth in Southeast Asia points to a growing demand of the drug in the region, where 287 million methamphetamine tablets were seized in 2015, according to the 2017 report of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Most of those seizures took place in Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, UNODC said.
Reported and translated by RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Eugene Whong.