Thai drug dealer had plastic surgery to disguise himself as ‘Korean,’ police say

The man, who has been given the name Jimin Seong, was described to police as a “good-looking man,” with wavy hair and fair skin.

But appearances can be deceiving.

The suspect’s name is Saharat Sawanjaeng, police said in a news release Friday. The 25-year-old, a Thai national and resident of Bangkok, tried to reinvent himself as a “Korean man” by changing his name, cutting his hair and undergoing multiple plastic surgery procedures “until his face was completely changed,” the release said. .

Before and after photos provided by the police show a very different appearance, with the earlier photos bearing little immediate resemblance to the man pictured after.

Sawanjaeng has been wanted since last year for allegedly importing more than 2,500 grams and 290 tablets of MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy or molly, into Thailand. It is alleged that he is a main source of the distribution of the drug in Bangkok and the surrounding area in the capital, the release said.

However, he seems to have disappeared – until police received rumors of the drugs being traced back to a Korean dealer, prompting their investigation.

Saharat Sawanjaeng is pictured during the raid in which he was arrested in Bangkok on 23 February.  Sawanjaeng's face has been obscured by the Royal Thai Police in this image.

After his arrest, Sawanjaeng allegedly admitted to having “worldwide connections,” sourcing drugs from the dark web and making transactions through Bitcoin, the release said.

He spoke “a little Korean,” but wanted to live in South Korea because he was “bored” of life in Thailand, he told police.

Photos of the raid show Sawanjaeng surrounded by police in the apartment before being led away with his hands tied. He is charged with illegally importing and distributing a category 1 drug into Thailand – both offenses which carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

His actions “impacted national security and the safety of the general public” because the drug “became widely publicized,” the release said.

Like most of Southeast Asia, Thailand has traditionally had strict laws against drug use and trafficking — but has taken some steps to relax rules in recent years.

One major legal amendment in 2017 changed the maximum penalty for selling drugs from the death penalty to life imprisonment. A series of more comprehensive reforms came in 2021 to emphasize prevention and treatment rather than punishment for small-scale drug users.

Notably, Thailand became the first country in Asia to decriminalize cannabis last year, with cannabis cafes and smoke shops popping up quickly across the country.

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