Tearful senator denies drug allegations
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Tearful senator denies drug allegations

Upakit says accusers have fabricated evidence linking him to accused Myanmar trafficker for political gain

Senator Upakit Pacharirangkun weeps as he clarifies drug trafficking allegations during a press conference on Friday. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)
Senator Upakit Pacharirangkun weeps as he clarifies drug trafficking allegations during a press conference on Friday. (Photo: Apichart Jinakul)

A tearful senator Upakit Pacharirangkun on Friday denied allegations that he had been involved in drug trafficking, saying his accusers had fabricated false evidence for political gain.

The appointed senator, now in the media spotlight over his alleged links with Myanmar national Tun Min Latt, who was arrested for drug trafficking last year, held a press conference to counter allegations made by Move Forward Party MP Rangsiman Rome.

Mr Upakit, 61, apologised for the belated clarification of the allegations first levelled against him last month, saying he feared that speaking out might affect the case.

Mr Rangsiman and some media outlets had already made their own judgement that he was wrong, he said. As the case was now in the judicial system, he said he did not want to interfere.

During the general debate in the House of Representatives last month, Mr Rangsiman grilled the government for its failure to tackle illegal drugs. Without naming names, the MP raised the question of money laundering allegations against a senator with the Thai initial “Or”.

Mr Rangsiman said the senator was a long-time business partner of Tun Min Latt, who has close ties with the Myanmar military junta. 

The Myanmar tycoon was arrested in Bangkok on Sept 17 last year. One of those arrested with him was a son-in-law of the senator.

Tun Min Latt pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering charges in the Ratchadaphisek Criminal Court on Jan 23. He remains in custody.

After the debate, Mr Upakit filed a defamation lawsuit against Mr Rangsiman, seeking 100 million baht in damages. He also filed a lawsuit against the hosts of a news programme.

Former national police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk on Tuesday denied having lobbied police investigators or agreed to act as a witness in criminal cases connected to the accused senator.

It was reported earlier that a letter written by a police inspector had circulated on social media detailing how police arrested Tun Min Latt. During the interrogation, the suspect implicated the senator.

On Oct 3 last year, the Criminal Court approved a warrant against the senator on charges related to drug trafficking and money laundering, according to the letter.

Mr Rangsiman said a top-level police officer with the Thai initial Sor may have meddled to have the warrant cancelled.

Last week, Pol Gen Damrongsak Kittiprapas, the national police chief, ordered an investigation into the revocation of the warrant, which was reportedly approved on the morning of Oct 3 but revoked later that day. The officers who had sought the warrant were later transferred.

Mr Upakit denied any links with the Myanmar tycoon. He also said he was not an influential figure. When he was appointed to the Senate in 2019, he declared assets of 1.6 billion baht, making him the country’s richest senator.

He acknowledged the case of his son-in-law, who has been in custody since his arrest at his home in Sukhumvit Soi 69 in Bangkok.

“If I were an influential man as alleged, my son-in-law would not have been behind bars for seven months,” he said.

“If police wanted to help, they would have helped on that day. But my son-in-law has been in jail for seven months. My grandchildren are crying every day. Their mother also phones and cries every day. But I couldn’t help at all,” the senator said, brushing away tears.

Responding to reports that police investigators handling the drug case had been transferred, Mr Upakit said he had no power, nor had he exerted any pressure to have any officers transferred.

The officers affected by the transfer order might have had no work achievements during the past few months, except for the case of Tun Min Latt, he speculated.

Besides, they were moved to positions that were at the same level as before, so their transfers were not a form of punishment, he said.

If he had wielded influence over the transfers, they might have been moved to remote areas, he added.

As well, Mr Upakit denied allegations that he had used money from the drug trade to launder it through an electricity supply business operating on the Thai-Myanmar border.

Attempts had been made to link him and his Allure Group with Tun Min Latt, he acknowledged. He questioned whether there was a conspiracy theory to bring the case to public attention for political gain.

Mr Upakit, who once owned a hotel business in the Myanmar border town of Tachilek, admitted last September that he knew Tun Min Latt through the electricity supply business but insisted he was not involved in any “grey” business with the accused.

He also asked on Friday whether Pol Lt Col Manaphong Wongphiwat, an inspector at the Phaya Thai station, was close to the Move Forward Party. The officer, he said, had leaked the letter on social media and the opposition party had used it to attack him. He claimed he and his family had become political victims.

The senator and his lawyer were preparing to file complaints against Pol Lt Col Manaphong and others with the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct cases later on Friday for dereliction of duty.

He also threatened to file complaints against any media outlets or individuals for falsely accusing him as courts had not yet given a ruling.

If he won the legal battle, he would donate money to charity activities, said the senator, adding he merely wanted to restore his reputation and dignity.

After making his remarks, Mr Upakit put the palms of his hands together in a wai and said “I swear before all sacred things in the world that I and my family have never been involved in illicit drug trade as accused. We never thought about it, never did and will not do it. (I curse) those who have made wrong accusations and their families will face doom”.

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