Hundreds of Villagers in Chiang Rai’s Wiang Kaen District Protest Police Detention of Three Hmong Men Detained Over Suspected Drug Smuggling

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CHIANG RAI – Nearly 100 villagers, who are relatives and friends of three Hmong male drug suspects, surrounded a local precinct in Chiang Rai province’s Wiang Kaen district, demanding the release of the men they claimed were innocent.

The three were taken into police custody on April 3 for alleged links to unclaimed 9.4 million yaba pills and 788 kilograms of “ice” crystal methamphetamine that were seized on April 1st, 2018.

The Hmong villagers of Ban Thai Charoen (Moo 8) in Tambon Moungyai rallied outside the Wiang Kaen Police Station to demand justice for suspects Sompong Saehua, Anurak Saelao and Yong Saelao. District chief Khamron Sripho and Wiangkaen superintendent Pl Colonel Passakorn Pikul had to negotiate with the protesters amid tight security provided by paramilitary rangers and policemen.

The villagers claimed that the three men were innocent and they were neither at the scene where the drugs were discovered nor in the truck that carried the narcotics.

However, police and administrative officials explained that the three men were in the vicinity of the area where the drugs were seized and hence they were suspected of involvement. Officials said the men had been taken into custody for questioning in keeping the process of case investigation, not with any intention to bully them.

They told the villagers that if the suspects were innocent, they could take the battle to court.

Drugs worth Bt1.7 billion in street value were seized by officers who were acting on a tip-off about delivery of drugs across the Mekong River at Ban Huai Leuk (Moo 4) in Tambon Moungyai.

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