Update: Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao has been released from the hospital, where he says he was being treated for a Chikungunya infection.
Who’s not feeling so great and won’t be attending today’s cabinet meeting?
That would be convicted heroin smuggler turned cabinet minister Thammanat Prompao, who says he was admitted to the hospital because he’s been working so gosh darn hard, according to political insider Wassana Nanuam.
Wassana posted a photo this morning of Thammanat flashing a victory-slash-peace sign from a hospital bed.
“Thammanat is taking sick leave from today’s cabinet meeting. He has been admitted to a Bangkok hospital … due to the fact that he works so hard. He is in the field every day and needs to rest a little,” Wassana tweeted at about 10am.
Thammanat’s need for bed rest comes after revising his version of his criminal past yet again to admit that, yes, he did spend years in an Australian prison before being released in 1996. One problem: The Australian court records detailing his confession, conviction and imprisonment for smuggling a big haul of smack into Sydney indicate he wasn’t freed until 1997.
“No matter how strong or how big your muscles are, you can still get sick,” Wassana wrote, proving that not even tough-as-nails military reporters are above some occasional sycophantry.
— Deep Blue Sea (@WassanaNanuam) September 17, 2019
The public was less sympathetic.
“He’s faking it, I can tell,” @Aey75196883 commented shortly after Wassana’s post went up, along with a smiley emoji.
“If he’s not going to bother anyone like this, maybe he shouldn’t wake up,” @Turn1around wrote at about 11am.
Others have noted that his hair appeared longer and darker than it has in recent photos, suggesting it was not recent.
Thammanat, a well-connected former military man who’s helped whip the administration’s fragile coalition into shape, was elevated to cabinet in July. At the time, he shrugged off whispers of his criminal past by saying he’d spent a small time in a foreign jail after being in the “wrong place at the wrong time.”
That story imploded last week when the Sydney Morning Herald reported that he in fact had served four years in a prison on a sentence reduced due to his cooperation with the authorities, during which he reportedly implicated Thai military figures in transnational drug smuggling.
Salting his self-inflicted wounds was Friday’s revelation that his PhD was fake, apparently purchased from a diploma mill. Nothing seems able to dent his popularity with the government however.
The constitution forbids those convicted of such crimes to serve, but a deputy prime minister known for his creative interpretations of the law said it was no big thing as that really only applies to convictions in Thai courts.
He said Friday that cabinet members need only hold bachelor’s degrees, so, hypothetically, were anyone to be a dishonest fraud, that’s no problem in this government.