With a major update: Open-mouthed disbelief III

8 09 2019

Readers may recall the brief reporting of crook or “controversial” figure Capt Thammanat Prompao, a Palang Pracharat MP for Phayao who became Deputy Minister for Agriculture in the military-backed government a few weeks ago. There was controversy when his seedy past was reported as including being stripped of his military rank for alleged involvement in a murder case in 1998, of which he was acquitted. He was also reported to have “previously convicted of a crime in a foreign country.”

This led to reports of a heroin bust in Australia, Thammanat being jailed and deported. Thammanat came up with a ridiculously unbelievable account of his “innocence.” Oddly, the story then seemed to disappear as the crook was both a minister and a fixer for the military’s Palang Pracharath.

Clipped from the Bangkok Post

Interestingly, the Sydney Morning the Herald and The Age:

reveal that a newly appointed senior member of Thailand’s ruling party spent four years in a Sydney jail in the 1990s for his role in trafficking 3.2 kilograms of heroin into Australia. He was deported on his release from Parklea prison.

Thammanat Prompao, a key ally of top generals and an enforcer in the coalition cabinet, was a young soldier known as Manat Bophlom when he pleaded guilty in the NSW District Court to conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of heroin with a street value of up to $4.1 million.

Recall that he told the Thai press: ““I didn’t import, produce or deal heroin…”. He added:

“I lived a normal life in Australia, in Sydney, for a full four years. You can ask the court in Sydney whether what I’m saying is true or not.”

Well, “normal” for a convicted criminal in an Australian jail.

According to the report, court records show that the then:

… Second Lieutenant Manat, as he was then known, was a central figure in the drug trafficking operation.

The court file reveals Manat [Thammanat] met key Thai underworld figures and his Australian co-accused in Bangkok before the deal, was involved in arranging the visa and buying Qantas tickets for the female drug courier, was recorded saying he was present when she packed the drugs into her luggage, and later helped transport that bag across town to the buyers in Bondi.

He met with known Australian criminals.

Interestingly, while in Parramatta jail awaiting sentencing, Thammanat:

told police he had worked as a bodyguard for the then crown prince of Thailand [now King Vajiralongkorn], had been an army spy under the identity “Yuthaphum Bophlom”, and ran a side business while serving as an assistant to a top general. In exchange for leniency in his sentence, he also gave up details about Thai drug operations, saying former soldiers named Wera, Manop and Pisarn were intimately involved….

The whole operation was under surveillance by the Australian Federal Police and included recordings of Thammanat and his accomplices.

Thammanat was sentenced to six years in jail with a non-parole period of four years. He served that sentence and was immediately deported.

Showing exactly how Thailand’s underworld works, Thammanat “… produced character references from a judge and a police lieutenant-colonel who each said he ‘always has good behaviours [sic], honesty and is reliable’.”

Thammanat appealed his sentence, which was rejected:

The Court of Criminal Appeal rejected it unanimously, noting the evidence “casts considerable light upon the role of the applicants in relation to the importation [of heroin], and upon their relationship with what might be described as the head supplier in Thailand.

As soon as the deported Thammanat was back in Thailand, he was back in the Royal Thai Army. Despite the murder charge in 1998, he did well. Now a minister, the report adds:

His assets and family have grown, too; a parliamentary declaration of assets in August named two wives and seven children, wealth of about $42 million, a fleet of cars including a Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Tesla and Mercedes along with 12 Hermes and 13 Chanel handbags, luxury watches and Buddhist amulets.

There’s a related report here.

Will this have any impact in Thailand and on a shaky military-backed, junta-concocted government? It is certainly another test of that regime. Convicted drug dealing ministers may be momentarily embarrassing, but the regime is, as we’ve said before, led by a mafia party.

We can’t wait for the impact of this story. Lies will certainly follow.

Update: The Thai media seemed a little slow getting to this story, but is all over it now. One reason for the reluctance probably had to do with the line in the report that stated that Thammanat “told police [in Australia] he had worked as a bodyguard for the then crown prince of Thailand [now King Vajiralongkorn]…”. Some reporters seem to feel that this may be a factual statement but Thai reports are reluctant to mention this. This is where the lese majeste law protects alleged criminal behavior.

It is the South China Morning Post that emphasizes the claimed link to the king.

Khaosod reports that Thammanat “said he has no response to the claim, which was made in detail by the Australian newspapers…”. He stated: “I’ve read the news, but I’d like to refrain from giving any explanation today…. And I won’t give a response, because they don’t understand the system [sic].” We are not entirely sure what he means. Perhaps how the criminal system works? Or perhaps how Thailand’s hierarchical, military-monarchy feudalism allows the well-connected to behave in a criminal manner. Illustrating these two “systems,” he Palang Pracharat fixer and enforcer made these comments as he accompanied prime minister Gen Prayudh Chan-ocha on official business.

The Bangkok Post reports that the Australian newspapers directly challenge Thammanat’s July “explanations.” At the time, PPT referred to his fabrications as “the best-ever self-incriminating interview in recent memory.” The Australian newspapers show Thammanat’s “explanation” was a concoction that was nothing less than a pack of lies. Remember that, at that time, Thammanat falsely declared: “I did not import, produce or deal heroin…”.

The Post also points out that Thammanat’s Thai accomplice in Australi, jailed with him, is his half-brother.

The Post’s account of Thammanat’s most recent response is that he stated that the reports were “yet another attempt by the same group of people who tried to discredit him.” He stated: “Don’t give it any credit. They keep repeating the same story. I can’t be bothered…”. And, revealingly, he added that: “no senior cabinet minister had asked him about this since they knew it was old news and the works of his political opponents.”

That is damning of the regime. Yet the regime has been, at best, hopelessly negligent and at worst, politically implicated in yet again granting impunity to a criminal.

Indeed, Wissanu Krea-ngam – who now looks like a cross between Carl Schmitt and a Reich Minister of Justice – publicly proclaimed that Thammanat “eligibility for a seat in the cabinet is not in question because he is not being prosecuted by the Thai judiciary.” Only Thai law counts. This seems to mean that even a person convicted of mass murder overseas could become Thailand’s minister of justice or even prime minister.

Clearly, this military-backed and monarch-backed regime has no shame. Less shame, it seems, than the 1991 coup group that backed down on someone accused of links with drug dealing.



2 responses

10 09 2019
Open-mouthed disbelief V | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] is now clear that having been an international heroin smuggler is no bar to being a minister in […]

12 09 2019
Open-mouthed disbelief VI | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] and deceit multiply by the day. Now, some readers might think he’s just a dope rather than a convicted dope trafficker.  But this would be to misunderstand how the rich and powerful “think” in Thailand. […]

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