Yala drug smuggler had terrorist links, police say

A drug bust earlier this week could help investigators unravel the shadowy nexus between Deep South insurgents and smuggling rackets.

By Ahmad Ramansiriwong for Khabar Southeast Asia in Yala

July 28, 2012
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Yala Provincial Police on Wednesday (July 25th) announced the arrest of two men caught with almost 40,000 ya bah (methamphetamine) pills and firearms.

  • In addition to the nearly 40,000 methamphetamine pills, police recovered weapons and vehicles. [Ahmad Ramansiriwong/Khabar]

    In addition to the nearly 40,000 methamphetamine pills, police recovered weapons and vehicles. [Ahmad Ramansiriwong/Khabar]

The bust may be particularly significant because one of the suspects is a close relative of Fisol Hayeesamaair, an alleged explosives expert wanted in connection with a bomb attack at Hat Yai Airport in April, 2005.

At a morning press conference at Yala Provincial Police headquarters, police officials identified the two men as 25-year-old Sorbree Hayeesamaair, a resident of Neurn-ngam subdistrict in Raman district; and Arleeya Yagaleesong, also 25 and from the same location.

Evidence presented in the case includes 39,200 ya bah pills wrapped in blue plastic bags, an M-16 Noveske-brand assault rifle with ammunition, a shotgun, and five mobile telephones.

Three vehicles were also seized: a grey Chevrolet Cruze sedan with temporary licence plates, a Toyota Tiger four-door pickup registered in Kanchanaburi province, and a white-pink Yamaha Fino motorbike with Yala plates.

Yala Provincial Police Commander Major General Peera Boonliang confirmed to Khabar Southeast Asia that one of the detained men has family links to suspected terrorists.

"Mr Sorbree Hayeesamaair is the son of 56-year-old Arhama Hayeesamaair, who is the uncle of Mr. Fisol Hayeesamaair. Mr. Fisol Hayeesamaair is an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) maker who has many outstanding arrest warrants, including one for the [April 3, 2005] bombing of Hat Yai Airport."

Drug smuggling has been frequently cited as being among the sources of funding for insurgents who have been carrying out a campaign of violence and intimidation in the Deep South, with near-daily attacks against security personnel, teachers, village heads and other local political figures, plantation owners and workers, Buddhist monks, and ordinary civilians.

It was an act of insurgent violence which prompted the investigation that eventually culminated in Wednesday's arrest, Peera said.

"Early on the morning of April 12th, 2012 a group of assailants used an M75 launcher in a grenade attack against the home of Mr Arhama, injuring his 25-year-old daughter Miss Dareeya. We believe the attack was in retribution for activities of rival drug traffickers, whose activities are backed by insurgents. A sustained subsequent investigation led to the large seizure that is presented here today," he said.

Police Colonel Sukon Sri-aroon, head of the provincial police investigation unit, said Sorbree has confessed that all the seized methamphetamines and firearms are his property, while also implicating an unknown man nicknamed 'Mr Bae'.

"He said that after contacting him by telephone this Mr Bae would deliver the drugs to him, arriving at the end of his soi at night in a Toyota sedan, the model of which he did not know. He would toss the drugs into his front yard and leave. He has never seen Mr Bae’s face, he claims. The last drop-off came in late June," Sukon said.

The other suspect, Arleeya, has denied involvement in drug smuggling. "He said he was only responsible for surveillance and calling up customers to arrange pick-ups from Mr Sorbree," the police investigator said

Both men have been charged with possession of a Schedule 1 drug with intent to sell as well as illegal possession of firearms, including one war weapon Schedule 1 drugs are controlled substances with no acceptable medical use.

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