An agent of the royal Thai police hunting for narcotics mastermind, Alexandre Cazes, in a quiet neighborhood on Bangkok’s western edge
A gray Toyota Camry slowly turned into the cul-de-sac of a quiet neighborhood on the western edge of the city, where downtown high-rises began to flatten out into highways and canals.
A woman who goes by the nickname Nueng sat behind the wheel. A slight, 46-year-old agent of the Royal Thai Police with a short, boyish haircut, she wore a white polo shirt and black pants rather than her usual military-style uniform. She and the female officer were working in a room with other people.
Nueng’s heart was pounding. For more than two years, law enforcement agents from around the world had been hunting the dark-web mastermind known as Alpha02, a shadowy figure who oversaw millions of dollars a day in narcotics sales and had built the largest digital drug and crime bazaar in history, known as AlphaBay. There was a sting going on involving no less than six countries. A quiet block in Bangkok, to the home of a Canadian named Alexandre Cazes, was the result of the operation. It was Nueng who planned to arrest Cazes in order to knock out the linchpin of the global underworld economy.
Nueng wanted to give the impression that he was inexperienced when he took the car to the model home and real estate office. She signaled to a security guard outside the house that she had taken a wrong turn and needed to pull a 180. She heard him shout at her to back directly out instead, that the street was too narrow for a three-point turn.
The 19-year-old victim of the narcotics rampage in Los Alamos, California, is identified as Saharat Sawanjaeng
The monk and nuns were all in Nueng’s service. Nueng quickly muttered an adapted high-speed plea to the Holy Trinity of the Buddha, his teachings and all of them. She whispered in Thai, asking Buddha to bless her with success. Please bless me with success. Please bless me with success.
Then she put the car in reverse, turned the wheel to the left, and ever so gently—almost in slow motion—slammed the Toyota’s fender into Alexandre Cazes’ front gate.
Around 18 months earlier, Robert Miller sat in the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s wiretap room in Fresno, California, spending another painfully boring day listening in on the life of one of the DEA’s endless supply of narcotics targets in California’s Central Valley.
Miller was a huge fan of the police department’s drug dealing squad, and wanted to be on that team. Instructors praised him for his thoroughness and instinctive judgement, as he always meticulously cleared his corners during training raids on the mock-ups of drug dens. And when the young DEA agent was assigned to the agency’s field office in Fresno right after graduation, he had high hopes it would put him where he wanted to be: making arrests, carrying out search warrants, “hitting doors,” as he put it. (Miller’s name and some personal details have been changed, per his request.)
Police said in a news release on Friday that the suspect’s real name is Saharat Sawanjaeng. The release said the 25-year-old tried to transform into a Korean man, changing his name, haircut, and face procedures “until his face had completely changed.”
Before and after photos provided by the police show a dramatically different look, with earlier photos bearing little immediate resemblance to the man pictured afterward.
Sawanjaeng’s alleged source of ecstasy in Thailand, after a major constitutional amendment in 2017, it was amended by 2021 to improve the cooperation between drug users and human rights in Thailand
Sawanjaeng is wanted for allegedly bringing thousands of grams and hundreds of tablets of ecstasy into Thailand. He is allegedly a major source of the drug spreading in Bangkok and the capital city’s surrounding area, said the release.
Thailand has always had strict laws against drug use and trafficking, but it has loosened them in recent years.
One major legal amendment in 2017 changed the maximum punishment for selling drugs from the death penalty to life imprisonment. The amendments in 2021, were meant to better emphasize prevention and treatment for small-scale drug users.