Thailand’s Justice Minister has ordered the prosecution of three Thai nationals arrested by the DEA Task Force in New York City for allegedly trying to acquire weapons of war to arm rebel groups in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
The Thai suspects have been identified as Sompak Rukrasaranee, Somphob Singhasiri, and Suksan Jullanan.
According to the US Justice Department, they were apprehended along with alleged Yakuza gang leader Takeshi Ebisawa in New York last Monday and Tuesday on drug and arms trafficking charges.
The men had conspired to sell an undercover agent substantial quantities of heroin and methamphetamine allegedly from the rebel United Wa State Army in Myanmar.
At the same time, Mr. Ebisawa was seeking to buy automatic weapons, rockets, machine guns, and surface-to-air missiles for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka and the militant United Wa State Army, Karen National Union, and Shan State Army in Myanmar.
Mr. Ebisawa was identified as a leader of the Yakuza transnational crime syndicate by the US Justice Department, which said the drugs were destined for New York streets.
According to the Bangkok Post, Mr. Suksan holds dual Thai-American citizenship while Mr. Somphob and Mr. Sompak are Thai citizens.
Prosecution in Thailand
Thailand’s anti-narcotic laws stipulate that Thai nationals who commit serious drug-related crimes can be tried in Thailand, regardless of where they committed the crime.
In a formal request, Thailand’s Office of the Narcotics Control Board has requested details of the arrests and a copy of the evidence supporting the criminal charges.
As soon as the DEA’s information is vetted, the suspects will likely be charged and an Interpol Red warrant for their arrest will likely be issued.
Even if the US does not extradite the suspects, authorities in Thailand can seize assets the suspects may have.
A case of this nature is subject to a 30-year statute of limitations with the death penalty as the maximum punishment, says ONCB chief Wichai Chaimongkhon.
Authorities in Thailand may decide to wait until the men are released from US custody before re-arresting them and having them brought to Thailand for trial if extradition is not forthcoming.
Mr. Wichai also confirmed that the three men are not former or current military officers.
The suspects were part of a gang trafficking drugs in the Golden Triangle just north of Chiang Rai Province in Myanmar’s Shan State.
Authorities in Thailand are also looking for other suspects as part of their investigation.