State prosecutors in Thailand indicted a member of the country’s Senate on six charges involving narcotics trafficking, money laundering and association with a transnational criminal organization, said a statement received Friday from the attorney-general’s office.
The senator, Upakit Pachariyangkun, denied all the charges when he appeared Thursday at criminal court in Bangkok, and was granted release on bail of 10 million baht ($286,000).
Upakit’s case is linked to that of Tun Min Latt, an influential businessman from neighboring Burma who is reputedly close to that country’s ruling military and especially its army chief, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. The general came to power in Burma after ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.
The case against all of them involves allegations that profits from the sale of illegal drugs were laundered through a power company that Tun Min Latt and Upakit controlled, though the latter claimed to have sold his interest when he was appointed a senator in 2019.
Burma is a major producer and exporter of illicit drugs such as methamphetamine, most of which enters Thailand for local consumption or transshipment.
Thai and Burmese media have reported that Upakit and Tun Min Latt have had shared interests in several companies. including a casino in Burma and a Thai power company.
Independent media in Burma and activist organizations have reported that Tun Min Latt was an arms broker for the junta. The United States has imposed sanctions on him, his wife and several of his companies for their role in supporting the junta, which is shunned by Washington for its seizure of power and continuing violent repression of its opposition.
Tun Min Latt was arrested in Thailand in September last year on drug trafficking and money laundering charges. Arrested with him were three Thai nationals, including Upakit’s Thai-American son-in-law, Dean Gultula. They pleaded not guilty to the charges in January this year and are being held pending trial.
Thailand’s Narcotics Control Board has announced that in the past few months it has carried out searches of several of Upakit’s residences and seized property worth more than 400 million baht ($11.5 million) on suspicion it was illegally gained.
The court scheduled an initial hearing for May 13 to review evidence in the case against Upakit.