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Thai Embassy Holds out Little hope of Reprieve for Preeyanooch Phuttharaksa

Preeyanooch Phuttharaksa, immediately after her death sentence was passed by a court in Ho Chi Minh City, and her old photo from MySpace. (Main photo from Sports & Culture newspaper, Hanoi)

 

Chiangrai Times – A Thai diplomat in Vietnam has warned Thais not to attempt to smuggle drugs into the communist nation as traffickers face execution if they are caught.

Charge d’affaires Boonrong Pongstiensak said Vietnam’s anti-drug laws are among the world’s harshest, and that many foreign prisoners are currently on death row in Vietnam, mostly on drug trafficking convictions.

“Even Vietnamese drug convicts face execution,” he said.

Police at Ho Chi Minh airport took this photo of Preeyanooch the day she was arrested last October for smuggling 3kg of drugs.

Mr Boonrong told the Bangkok Post that the Thai embassy in Vietnam is working to help Preeyanooch Phuttharaksa, 23, a Thai college student from Bangkok who was sentenced to death for drug trafficking by Ho Chi Minh City court in June this year.

Preeyanooch was arrested for trafficking three kilogrammes of methamphetamine pills from Nigeria’s Benin city into Vietnam through Saigon airport last October.

She was arrested after the drugs were found in a false bottom of her suitcase.

She told the court she was paid about US$1,570 (about 50,000 baht) by a Nigerian trafficking ring to smuggle the drugs.

Mr Boonrong said Preeyanooch had appealed for a reduced sentence on the advice of the Thai embassy in Vietnam.

He said the embassy was waiting for the Vietnamese president’s decision on whether to reduce her death sentence to life imprisonment.

But Mr Boonrong said a reduced sentence would be difficult to obtain as drug trafficking is considered a most serious offence in Vietnam.

Mr Boonrong said four other Thais arrested for drugs trafficking are now being detained in prisons in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

They are awaiting trial, having been charged with smuggling methamphetamine pills into Vietnam.

Mr Boonrong did not give further details about these four suspects. He said the embassy in Hanoi is waiting for a response to a letter it sent to Vietnamese authorities asking them to allow Thai officials to visit the suspects.

He said visiting Thai inmates in Vietnam was difficult as it took a long time to obtain the necessary permission.

Mr Boonrong said he had received information that many Thai women are being deceived into trafficking drugs by international drugs gangs.

Permpong Chavalit, deputy secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board, said the Foreign Ministry recently reported that about 100 Thai women are currently being detained for drug trafficking in several countries, including China, India, United Arab Emirates, Spain, Brazil and South Africa.

Some of them had married citizens of African countries and were forced to become involved in the trans-national drug trade, while others were willing to act as drug couriers due to the high pay, he said.

He said African drug syndicates are using Thailand as their base, and that African gangsters used different tactics to dupe Thai women into the drug trade.

Mr Permpong warned Thai women to stay away from African men to save themselves from being tricked into becoming a part of the drug networks.

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