The controversy surrounding the qualifications of key Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) figure Thamanat Prompow, also deputy minister for agriculture and cooperatives, has been put to rest following the Constitutional Court's ruling on the matter, said Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.
The public has cast doubts on Capt Thamanat's qualifications following reports saying he was sentenced to four years in prison by an Australian court in 1993 over a drug offence there. According to Thai law, former convicts are not allowed to hold public office.
Mr Wissanu, a legal specialist, said the court's decision does not contradict the opinion of the Council of State, the government's legal adviser, regarding MPs' qualifications.
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 court, not a foreign court. As the sentence was handed down by a New South Wales court, it is not legally binding in Thailand. Capt Thamanat is qualified to hold his positions, it said.
In its view on the qualifications of MPs, the Council of State said a person jailed for two years in Thailand or abroad is not eligible to be an MP within five years of being released, Mr Wissanu said. In this case, the jail sentence was given in 1993 and Capt Thamanat was released in 1997, so he is not prohibited from being an MP, Mr Wissanu said.
He said the Constitutional Court ruling should also set a precedent for any case regarding the qualifications of MPs. He said the decision does not "whitewash" the PPRP MP's standing.
Mr Wissanu said other issues like ethics are another story and he had no comment on growing calls for the National Anti Corruption Commission to investigate Capt Thamanat over his ethical conduct.