BANGKOK — Deputy agriculture minister Thammanat Phrompao on Wednesday night continued to insist he never pled guilty and served jail time for drug charges in Australia, despite evidence that he did.
Thammanat’s denial came after the disbanded Future Forward Party published a court ruling it obtained from Australia on its Twitter account, confirming Thammanat’s guilty plea and jail sentence for heroin trafficking. Under Thai laws, a person with a conviction on drug offenses cannot serve as a minister.
“I did not admit to importing, exporting, producing, or selling heroin,” Thammanat told the House when questioned about his criminal records during the no-confidence debate.
“Whoops! Dropped some files,” the Future Forward Twitter account tweeted late Wednesday night. “Giving out files of evidence to rip off Thammanat’s mask, who lacks the qualifications of being an MP.”
The disbanded party’s retaliatory tweet, which has been retweeted nearly 60,000 times, links to a folder of evidence the party said it received from Australian authorities.
According to the court documents, Thammarat, then named Manat Bophlom, was one of two Thais who “pleaded guilty to being knowingly concerned in the importation of heroin” and were sentenced to prison for six years in 1995.
The folder contains five files, which include court records in English, Thai translations, news clippings, and a PDF Powerpoint presentation made with Future Forward fonts and colors.
The opposition said Thammanat’s criminal record effectively barred him from serving in the Cabinet, but the politician vehemently denied the allegations in spite of the documented evidence.
Speaking almost an hour at the censure debate Thursday, Thammanat repeated his denial and accused the Future Forward of misleading translation.
“I thought it’s going to be something exciting, but I’ve seen it all,” Thammanat said. “Your translation which says that I had confessed to trafficking charges is not true because there is nowhere in a certified translation that says I did.”
He continued, “That charge only carries a life sentence, so if I had been sentenced as the debater says, I must have died and reborn again.”
Putting the motion of no-confidence against him was Future Forward MP Theeratchai Pantumas, who said Thammanat was “concealing and twisting the truth in a world-class humiliating affair.”
Phalang Pracharath MPs also objected to the documents being aired inside the Parliament.
Thammanat, who entered politics as a Phayao MP, said he had already gone through the vetting process and maintained that his eligibility is not affected since he is not being prosecuted by the Thai judiciary.
“Thailand was never a colony,” Thammanat said. “The debater is speaking as if we are surrendering our sovereignty to Australia. The reference to a court order from another country is not applicable to the Thai government.”
Thammanat also said he only served eight months behind bars, spending the rest of his sentence “on a farm with a lightened punishment because they let me use my military experience to train kids and farm.”
แจกไฟล์เอกสารกระชากหน้ากากธรรมนัสขาดคุณสมบัติรัฐมนตรี-ส.ส. เนื่องจากมีการประท้วงและการขัดขวางการขึ้นภาพเอกสารในห้องประชุมสภาทำให้ประชาชนทางบ้านดูไม่ค่อยสะดวก #อภิปรายไม่ใว้วางใจรัฐบาล #ประชุมสภา #กระชากหน้ากาก https://t.co/3xvn16Df2y— อนาคตใหม่ (@FWPthailand) February 26, 2020
Additional reporting Tappanai Boonbandit