Heroin smuggler ‘resigns’ from Thai cabinet under cloud of suspicion

Thammanat Prompao shows his letter of resignation Wednesday.
Thammanat Prompao shows his letter of resignation Wednesday.

Convicted heroin smuggler -cum-cabinet member announced his resignation yesterday amid rifts with numerous top figures, including PM Prayuth Chan-ocha. 

One of the most controversial politicians in the cast of dubious characters comprising the military-backed government, Thammanat Prompao left his post as deputy minister of agriculture about the same time his dismissal was published in the Royal Gazette, suggesting it was not voluntary.

It comes days after his rumored attempt to engineer the downfall of Prayuth and five other ministers in a no-confidence vote failed. Thammanat denied that he had been plotting to oust Prayuth at a hasty press conference yesterday, saying he’d been considering resigning for months because the current political climate makes him “uneasy.”

“I don’t like the atmosphere of the political divide at the moment. I do not see the future and have been uneasy,” he said. “The atmosphere inside the cabinet is even worse but I do not want to talk in detail.”

Just last week, he produced a slick “meet the candidate” style video which gave the impression that the influential political fixer had his eyes on higher office.

Thammanat, 56, said he will go back to his northern hometown of Payao to continue his duties as an MP for the ruling Phalang Pracharath Party. He said he has not decided to quit the party, in which he serves as secretary-general.

“I want to do a job that truly serves the country, not a job that serves a group of people,” he said.

He denied allegations that he had been plotting to oust Prayuth.

Thammanat is little known for his role as a deputy ag minister, however. He’s most famous for dismissing the smuggled heroin for which he spent four years in Australian prison as “just flour.”

Thai law forbids someone convicted of drug-related offenses from sitting on the cabinet, but Prayuth’s longtime legal adviser found a novel rationale to dismiss that. Junta holdover Wissanu Krea-ngam said two years ago that convictions outside of Thailand don’t count.


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