6 June 2024

Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled today (Wednesday) that Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompow, who was found guilty of drug trafficking by an Australian court in 1993, can retain his ministerial post and MP status, despite the conviction.

“Even though the defendant was sentenced by the District Court of New South Wales, before he ran for the election as an MP, it was not a conviction in a Thai Court, so the defendant does not have qualities prohibited for an MP,” said a judge.

The verdict came after 51 MPs filed a petition with the House Speaker to submit the case to the Constitutional Court, to rule on whether Capt. Thammanat’s parliamentary status is legally valid.

The 53-year-old politician, who acts as an intermediary between the ruling Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP) and its much smaller coalition parties and lobbies for PPRP election candidates in the North and South of the country, is a PPRP MP for Phayao Province and became a first time cabinet member in the 2019 Prayut Chan-o-cha administration.

Despite the numerous allegations made against him, namely that he’s unfit to be an MP or cabinet member due to his conviction, for which he spent four years in Sydney prison, and claims the PhD he received in the United States does not meet a recognised standard, Capt. Thammanat remains an influential figure in Thai party politics.

Known and ridiculed for his phrase “it was flour” when responding to other MPs about his conviction, Thammanat repeatedly denied wrongdoing in reference to the 3.2kgs of heroin being smuggled. He survived two consecutive no confidence motions in 2020 and in February this year.

Thammanat was not present during the court hearing, but assigned an aid to attend in his place. Earlier, he said that he would respect the court’s ruling, whatever the outcome. If stripped of his ministerial and parliamentary statuses, he said he would go back into private business.