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United States International Law Enforcement Cooperation

The United States law enforcement interest in Thailand is justified primarily on the belief that Thailand serves as the primary conduit for heroin from the Golden Triangle to be transported to the United States.11 United States government law enforcement activities within Thailand include the DEA cooperating closely with the Narcotics Suppression Bureau, units of the Border Patrol Police, and Provincial Police departments, providing intelligence, operational support and expertise in many major narcotic cases. The US government has provided commodity support to law enforcement officials, and the US Department of Defense through the US Customs provides training for the Royal Thai Customs, and supports a regional center in Phuket to monitor the movement of small vessels suspected of smuggling illegal narcotics.12

US Drug Enforcement Agents have also operated independently within Thailand, conducting surveillance, and using undercover informants and agents to collect evidence against drug smugglers within Thailand, who are then, typically, arrested after their arrival in the United States. 13 These cases, however, usually involving non-Thai nationals, present considerably less procedural complications, and general controversy, than those cases which involve the arrest of Thai Nationals on Thai soil, and their extradition to the United States.

Operation Tiger Trap

The DEA considers Operation Tiger Trap to be their most ambitious venture to date to disrupt heroin trafficking operations in Thailand.14 The defendants included Thai citizens, some of whom occupied high level positions within the Thai government. The 13 principle defendants were considered by the DEA to be high level operators in the heroin trafficking industry in Thailand, and had been indicted in the US Federal Court for the Eastern District of New York. 15 These cases, because they involved a significant infringement of Thai sovereignty, i.e., the arrest of Thai nationals on Thai soil, and their extradition outside their homeland stand trial in the United States created considerable controversy among Thai government officials, and the Thai public.

Chao Fu-Sheng and Thanong Siripreechapong were among several defendants, eight of whom were Thai nationals, arrested throughout Thailand in November of 1994 at the request of the DEA. 16

On January 10, 1995, US authorities requested the extradition of Chao Fu-Sheng. Although Chao agreed to the US request for extradition, and formally requested his own extradition, on January 17, 1995 the Thai Cabinet passed a resolution that allowed the Thai courts to consider the US request for Chaos extradition.

The extradition of Chao Fu-Sheng was opposed by Minister of Parliament Piyanat Watcharaporn, who argued that the matter should be handled internally for the sake of the dignity of the country. However, pursuant to Article 15 of the 1983 Thai-US extradition treaty, a request such as Chaos for voluntary extradition precluded the need for legal procedure. 17 Furthermore, the Foreign Minister, and the Attorney General, arguing in favor of Chaos extradition, stated that the extradition of Thanong Siripreechapong, who was himself a former Chart Thai Member of Parliament, had already set precedent in this matter.18 Ultimately, on April 9, 1996, the Thai Cabinet approved the extradition of Chao Fu-Sheng to stand trial in the US.

More recently, Li Yun-Chung, accused of involvement in the biggest heroin shipment in United States history, involving some 486 kilograms,19 was arrested in Thailand on July 23, 1996, and then detained in a Bangkok special prison until being released on bail on February 7, 1997.20 Li, who was fighting his extradition to the United States, fled after his release from custody, and was believed to have entered Burma. This situation resulted in the United States Embassy lodging objections to Lis release with Thai authorities. 21

The decision by the judge, former Deputy Chief Justice, Somchai Udomwang, to release Li on bail led to protests from the US government, and to allegations of corruption within the Thai Judiciary.22 Somchai Udomwang later faced an investigation and disciplinary action by the Thailand Ministry of Justice based on his decision to grant Li bail..23After his recapture, Li Yun-Chung alleged that he had paid bribes in order to secure bail, and now feared for his life.24 Then, in a turnabout from his earlier position, Li voluntarily requested his immediate extradition to the United States.25

Sovereignty and the Effects Doctrine

The basic problem encountered in international law enforcement efforts is the principle of national Sovereignty, which operates as a barrier to a foreign nation asserting jurisdiction outside of its borders. The principle of Sovereignty can be summarized as the governments exclusive power within its own borders, and virtually nowhere else; and it is this doctrine that presents the greatest obstacle to the international enforcement of criminal law. According to the principle of sovereignty , the effective jurisdiction of a state law enforcement powers extends no farther than its own borders.. 26

The primary basis for criminal jurisdiction involving bilateral treaties between states is the territorial principle which allows for jurisdiction over persons or things within a states territory or conduct outside the territory which has substantial effects on it (The latter variant is known as objective territorial jurisdiction, or the effects doctrine). Although a state may claim extraterritorial effect for its criminal laws, it does not have the power to enforce those laws outside its borders .27 Therefore the principle of Sovereignty requires that transnational law enforcement efforts be carried out through the aid of bilateral agreements. 28

There are two principle bilateral treaties between the United States and Thailand controlling the role of law enforcement and the cooperation of law enforcement between the two countries. The Treaty on Mutual Assistance on Criminal Matters was signed in Bangkok on March 19, 1986, and went into force on June 10, 1993. 29 The second treaty is the extradition treaty.30 In addition to the above, Thailand and the United states have also entered into a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the Narcotics Field.31

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11) US Department of State Bureau of International Narcotic Matters, supra note at 1.  
12) Id. at 4.  
13) See e.g. United States v. Ligenfelter, 997 F.2d 632 (9th Cir. 1993); United States v. Kimball, 975 F.2d 563 (9th Cir. 1992); United States v. Monroe, 943 F.2d 563 (9th Cir. 1991); United States v. Ogbuehi 18 F.3d 897 (9th Cir. 1994).  
14) Drug Enforcement Administration Briefing Book, US Department of Justice, Operation Tiger Trap, < briefing pubs dea>  
15) Id.  
16) Associate of Khun Sa to be extradited, Bangkok Post, April 10, 1997.  
17) Article 15 allows for a simplified procedure, and states that: If the person irrevocably agrees in writing to extradition after personally being advised by the competent authority of his right to formal extradition proceedings and the protection afforded by them, the Requested State may grant extradition without formal extradition proceedings. Extradition Treaty, December 14, 1983, US-Thail., Heins KAV 1940, Senate Treaty Doc. 98-16, Executive Congress No. 98-29 (entered into force May 17, 1991). 
18) Associate of Khun Sa to be Extradited, supra Note 16.  
19) Nusara Thaitawat and Veera Prateepchaikul, Suspect in record United States drugs seizure jumps bail, Bangkok Post, March 12, 1997
20) Id.  
21) Id.  
22) A decision regretted, Bangkok Post, March 20, 1997 .  
23) Id.  
24) Caroline Lurie, Drug Lord Fears For Life and Calls for extradition, Thailand Times, May 5, 1997 .  
25) Id.  
26) Research in International law under Auspices of the Faculty of the Harvard Law School, Jurisdiction with Respect to Crime, 29 AM. J. INTL L 435 (Supp. 1935); see also Zagaris & Rosenthal, United States Jurisdictional Considerations in International Criminal Law, 15 CAL.W. INTL L.J. 303, 305-310 (1985).  
27) Nadelmann, supra note 1, at 41.  
28) Id. at 41  
29) Treaty on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, March 19, 1986, US-Thail., Heins No. KAV 1941, (entered into force on June 10, 1993).  
30) Extradition Treaty, December 14, 1983, US-Thail., Heins KAV 1940, (entered into force May 17, 1991). 
31) Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in the Narcotics Field, US-Thail., September 28, 1971, T.I.A.S. 7185 (entered into force September 28, 1971).