BANGKOK — The leader of a pro-democracy party has defended the innocence of a party member arrested earlier this month on suspicion of drug trafficking, calling the arrest a political ploy.
Pol. Gen. Sereepisut Temeeyavets, the leader of the Thai Liberal Party, confirmed on Wednesday after a parliamentary session that he has been informed of the arrest of party-list MP candidate, Suban Mahachanon. Suban, 57, was arrested along with another Thai and two Chinese men on June 16, while the group was inspecting a shipping container at a port in Chon Buri.
Sereepisut called for Suban to be treated as innocent until proven guilty, visibly bristling when questioned by reporters about accountability.
“I don’t have to be responsible for what happened at all,” the sharp-tongued politician said. “Use your brains to think about how exactly I can be responsible. It’s a personal matter, not the party’s. I don’t know him personally.”
“Does the Prime Minister have to kill himself if he finds out an aide is a drug dealer? Stick to the facts of what happened,” Sereepisut added.
The party leader then suggested that the timing of the investigation suggests political motivations.
“The arrest was made ten days ago. Why is the news breaking only now?” he asked.
The suspects have denied their involvement in drug trafficking, claiming they were informed that the shipment was of shoes.
“I also heard that the AMLO [Anti-Money Laundering Office] is investigating the party’s financial history. This means that there are currently attempts to throw the book at those who are against the government,” Sereepisut said.
A not-so-dramatic video surfaced online on Wednesday showing Suban opening the container before undercover police officers rushed in and surrounded the men.
Inside the container, the police found 985 kilograms of methamphetamines declared as tea, but packaged in “hygienic chopstick” boxes that were packed behind shoe boxes. The two-billion baht haul was bound for the Philippines.
An investigation is underway into how the meth was smuggled into the country and whether anyone else in the party was involved. One of the suspects, Joi Sae Fong, 62, allegedly told authorities that a Chinese importer tried to dupe him into smuggling additional boxes of meth by claiming that the boxes were illegal cigarettes.