Govt leaders tight-lipped on Thamanat's heroin sentence in Australia

Govt leaders tight-lipped on Thamanat's heroin sentence in Australia

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon says the news report of Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao's time in an Australian jail for heroin smuggling is an individual matter he must handle himself, and will not affect the government. (Photo by Wassana Nanuam)
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon says the news report of Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao's time in an Australian jail for heroin smuggling is an individual matter he must handle himself, and will not affect the government. (Photo by Wassana Nanuam)

The government is unlikely to be affected by an Australian news report about Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao’s four years in a Sydney jail for drug trafficking, according to Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon.

Gen Prawit said on Tuesday that Mr Thammanat had to handle the problem himself, when asked about the deputy agriculture minister's jail sentence in Australia for heroin smuggling in 1993. 

The Sydney Morning Herald on Monday published an investigative report titled "From sinister to minister: politician's drug trafficking jail time revealed", based on the court documents. 

When asked whether the case would affect the government, Gen Prawit said it was old news and Mr Thammanat said earlier he had already cleared the case.  

Gen Prawit said he did not believe the report would hurt the government's image. It was a matter concerning only one person and had nothing to do with the country. More importantly, Mr Thammanat had been released from prison.

He shrugged off speculation the issue could be used to discredit the government. He declined to comment when asked whether there was any movement abroad that wanted to erode the government’s credibility.

Gen Prawit said he had not yet talked with Mr Thammanat about the matter.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam declined to comment on the issue, saying he had no information about the case and Mr Thammanat could speak for himself.

Mr Thammanant, a Palang Pracharat MP for Phayao province, told reporters in July, after the matter was first raised, that the heroin charges against him in Australia were not serious and that he was simply “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

But the SMH report on Monday showed Mr Thammanat, who went by the name 2nd Lt Manat Bophlom at the time, was a key member of the gang. The report cited court files detailing police reports, some of which had been obtained by using listening devices in a Sydney hotel room where the gang members met.

He was sentenced to six years in jail with a non-parole period of four years, which he served.

He earlier told reporters he had a visa during that time and was legally employed selling sanitation products. The SMH story said he was in Parklea prison.


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