Democrat boss on defensive as row grows

Democrat boss on defensive as row grows

Democrat Party leader Chalermchai Sri-on. (Photo: Nutthawat Wichieanbut)
Democrat Party leader Chalermchai Sri-on. (Photo: Nutthawat Wichieanbut)

Democrat Party leader Chalermchai Sri-on led his MPs on Tuesday in countering allegations that his former secretary was involved in a pork-smuggling saga.

The press conference was arranged after Somkiat Korpaisarn, a lawyer and Mr Chalermchai's former secretary, was recently accused by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) of a raft of charges, including pork smuggling, associating with criminals, and money laundering.

Mr Somkiat was accused of working with Li Sheng Jiao, alias "Hia Kao" (Brother Kao), a well-known politician and chairman of a trade association, who is a prime suspect in the smuggling case that has caused billions of baht in damage.

Arrest warrants were also issued for four people last week, including Mr Li's son, Karin Piyapornpaiboon, who shares a surname with Wirat Piyapornpaiboon, Mr Chalermchai's elder brother.

Mr Chalermchai, who denied having any family ties with Mr Li earlier last week, said Mr Somkiat is neither his relative nor a close friend.

Mr Chalermchai said he is considering filing a defamation suit against the media.

The picture with Mr Li was taken as the latter's trade association invited him as a former colleague, he added.

Li Sheng Jiao, alias "Hia Kao". (Screen capture)

Mr Chalermchai also clarified his involvement with the pork-smuggling saga, saying he had to deal with African swine fever (ASF), which was widely spreading during his time as Agricultural and Cooperatives Minister in the previous government.

The Democrat leader, who was elected to lead the opposition party in December, said he had ordered Prapat Potasuthon, a former deputy agricultural minister who looked after the Livestock Department, to give the pork-smuggling case his full attention.

Mr Chalermchai said he was being targeted by political enemies for their own benefit.

"My family never received a single baht in bribes or offered help with any wrongdoing that was against the law," he said.

Pol Col Tawee Sodsong, the current Justice Minister, said investigators have been devoting themselves to the pork-smuggling case and the allegations against those suspected of being involved, as it is an issue that affects the country's food security.

"[Investigators] will base their accusation against the prime suspect on the evidence available, not merely on the fact that his name was flagged," said Pol Col Tawee.

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