Gov’t Defends Appointing Drug Convict Minister’s Wife to Office

A file photo of deputy agricultural minister Thammanat Prompow and his wife Thanaporn Sriwiraj.
A file photo of deputy agricultural minister Thammanat Prompow and his wife Thanaporn Sriwiraj.

BANGKOK — Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam on Thursday insisted that the appointment of a wife of a minister who served four years in Australian prison for a drug trafficking conviction is totally legal. 

Thanaporn Sriwiraj, who’s married to deputy agriculture minister Thammanat Prompow, was assigned a position at the Prime Minister’s Office earlier this week, raising uproar from government critics. But Wissanu said the Prime Minister has sole power to appoint or remove any staff member at his own discretion. 

“It’s the Prime Minister’s quota,” Wissanu said. “Names can be nominated, but it’s the sole discretion of the Prime Minister to appoint or not appoint the position.”

Read: Thammanat Threatens to Sue Aussie Paper for Drug Allegation

Capt. Thammanat had said earlier that Thanaporn’s appointment was made under a “deal” with the outgoing incumbent, who reportedly resigned to help campaign for a candidate in the upcoming local election. 

Thammanat also said he was unaware of the nomination until the news broke on the media.

“It’s not my power,” Thammanat said. “I only learned about it from the media. I wasn’t really aware that the name nominated to the Cabinet was my wife because the surname didn’t catch my attention and no one said anything about it.”

When asked today whether such succession could be done, Wissanu the Deputy PM evaded the question and said it was the PM who made the decision to appoint Thanaporn.

“We wouldn’t say it like that,” Wissanu said. “The person who appointed her was the PM.”

Thammanat has been hit with controversies ever since he was nominated to the Cabinet last year.

The most serious allegation is a report from Australian media, which detailed how he was convicted of heroin trafficking in Australia back in 1993. Thammanat was imprisoned for four years, BBC’s Thai edition said, quoting court documents.

Despite a heap of evidence presented by the Australian press, Thammanat denied the allegations and insisted he was not involved in the crimes. 

In 2018, Thammanat reportedly announced his engagement with Thanaporn, who won the crown of 2016 Miss Thailand beauty pageant, though they did not register for marriage.

According to asset disclosure documents, Thanaporn owns 189 million baht worth of assets, which include a 12.35 karat diamond crown, 42 luxury handbags, and a Porsche sports car.