Thamanat fit to hold post: court
The Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled that Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister and Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) MP for Phayao, Thamanat Prompow, is qualified to hold his positions despite having served four years in an Australian prison in 1994.
The court's ruling was in response to a petition forwarded by House Speaker Chuan Leekpai. The petition was submitted by 51 MPs of the Move Forward Party, who sought a ruling on Capt Thamanat's eligibility to sit as an MP and hold a cabinet portfolio, given his past conviction in a heroin smuggling case.
The MPs wanted the court to decide whether Capt Thamanat should be disqualified as an MP and cabinet member under sections 98, 101, 160 and 170 of the constitution.
In its ruling, the court said for a jail sentence to affect Capt Thamanat's positions as MP and cabinet member under the constitution, it must be handed down by a Thai, not a foreign court.
As the sentence was handed down by a New South Wales court in Australia, it is not legally-binding in Thailand, it said.
Therefore, Capt Thamanat is still qualified to be an MP and a cabinet member under the constitution, the court ruled.
An article published in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald in September 2019 revealed that Capt Thamanat, who then went by the name of 2nd Lt Manat Bophlom, spent four years in a Sydney jail in the 1990s after pleading guilty to his part in trafficking 3.2 kilogrammes of heroin.
After initially denying being jailed in Australia, Capt Thamanat's version of events shifted several times after Sydney court files revealed the extent of his involvement in the heroin-trafficking operation. He claimed in parliament to have been a witness in "state-sponsored accommodation" and, during a censure motion he survived earlier this year, forcefully declared he was arrested with flour, not drugs.
Capt Thamanat has said the case does not have any bearing on his qualifications as a minister.