He narrowly escaped death in a country that has some of the world’s toughest drug laws.
A court in Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday sentenced a Thai man to life in prison for trafficking 2.4 kg (5.3 lbs) of methamphetamine from South Africa last year.
Pimtanatanasuk Kettawan, 42, was arrested at Ho Chi Minh City’s Tan Son Nhat International Airport in April 2016 after customs officers discovered 2.4 kilograms (5.3 pounds) of narcotics hidden inside a pair of shoes in his suitcase.
Tests found the narcotics were 2.4 kg of methamphetamine, according to the municipal prosecutors’ office. Trafficking more than 2.5 kg of methamphetamine is punishable by death in Vietnam.
During the hearing on Tuesday, the Thai citizen said he had met an African man named John in early 2016 at a casino in Cambodia. Several months later, John asked him to carry some goods from South Africa to Thailand for $2,000.
Kettawan was given $500 and a ticket to South Africa last April. Upon arrival, he was met by John’s men and given a suitcase and a pair of shoes to transport to Thailand, with transits in Qatar and Vietnam, where he was busted.
Kettawan said he did not know the items contained drugs, claims dismissed by the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court on Tuesday.
Vietnam has some of the world’s toughest drug laws. Those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kg of methamphetamine face the death penalty.
The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin, or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is also punishable by death.