Confirmation of Deputy Minister Thammanat, despite drug conviction, draws derision

FILE PHOTO: The decision to reaffirm Thammanat Prompow has drawn frustrated criticism.

Though not unexpected, the decision on Tuesday to allow Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompow to keep his status in spite of an Australian drug conviction in the 1990s still drew plenty of outrage and backlash. In what some called Thailand’s lowest point, allowing the minister to keep his post may set a damning precedent regarding Thailand’s international obligations such as extradition and recognising the laws of other countries.

(Mr. Thammanat was deported from Australia after serving 4 years for a 6 year heroin trafficking conviction.)

Many argue that allowing a convicted drug criminal abroad to hold public office in Thailand may damage Thailand’s international reputation. Political scientists point to the verdict of the Constitutional Court on Tuesday as undermining Thailand’s legal system and validating loopholes available to the rich and powerful, especially in government.

The controversial deputy minister has been under scrutiny before his conviction, with a no-confidence motion failing last year in Parliament, but his infamy has not seemed to hamper his popularity. He has managed to maintain popularity amongst voters, even being put to work campaigning in the north of Thailand for the Palang Pracharat Party of whom he is a member (after defecting from the Pheu Thai Party in 2016). With success in that region, he was put to work by Palang Pracharat (the political party representing the conservative and ‘military’ views in Thailand) in the south, helping to secure a victory in March in Nakorn Sri Thammarat.

Still, controversy persists, and online Thai people raged and mocked the lack of justice. The deputy minister had defended the heroin smuggling conviction by claiming “it was flour” and the online community turned that phrase into a viral hashtag. Online commentators posited that his confirmation opens the floodgates for all sorts of convicted criminals abroad to run for public office in Thailand as if what is done outside of the country doesn’t count domestically.

Foreigners, coming to Thailand, are expected to hold to a different standard – a foreign drug conviction would prevent you from being able to enter the Kingdom.

One commenter even mentioned this corruption as a reason that a new Facebook group for Thai people interested in moving abroad saw over 850,000 members join when it was launched.

The ridicule of the decision to allow confirmation of the MP, despite his conviction and served 4 year sentence, comes with melancholy, however, as the Thai population employ dark humour to cope with the feeling that nothing can be done about the corruption of those in power.

Changing anti-drug campaign slogan “let’s fight against drugs” to say “let’s sell drugs”, making references to the “say my name” phrase on TV’s Breaking Bad, and political cartoons paraphrasing the tourism slogan of Las Vegas to “what happens in Australia, stays in Australia” have been popularly shared online.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.


  1. So drug and heroin trafficking is no problem in Thailand and even a fake phd. Wow what a banana and mafia republic with such a court. And killing cops on cocaine also ok but free expression can bring you into jail. Only in a failed state things like that happen. Only people who not care about the country and people support such thugs

  2. Because they are laws based on international norms of decency and integrity. Like I have said many times. I have no problem in a country choosing its own path. That’s for it’s population to decide. But you can’t have your cake and eat it. Either follow the rules based order of the international community, or sit outside of it and become a state like North Korea and Iran. These are the sort of issues that determines a countries international standing. That in turn affect foreign investment as hence development opportunities. Their choice, but it is a choice for which there are negative consequences.

  3. ‘ . . . In what some called Thailand’s lowest point . . . ‘

    Lowest point? No, that was the 2019 election result that put this jerk and his kind into the country’s highest offices.

    Mindful of how the present constitution works and that this shower are likely to be entrenched at the H-o-R indefinitely, that does make that March 2019 day the country’s lowest point . . . in my view, at least.

  4. Over nearly 40 years in Thailand we saw a number of strange (to say the least) governments come and go. However this present one seems to top them all. All my close Thai friends feel very ashamed of what their country has become. We might see similar developments like in Myanmar soon here. Those keeping the country alive, like many “expats” tend to leave the country ASAP.

  5. @Gosport – people who support drug and heroine trafficker/dealer should not talk about rules, laws or judge about other people/ countries ! Who should listen and give anything about what thugs and criminals are saying?!

  6. He said it was flour. Of course it bloody was. The heroine was intercepted and substituted with flour which is common practice. Convicted drug offenders cannot enter Thailand which is also common practice elsewhere but to allow an elected Member of Parliament to remain after an offence of this magnitude show the transparency of a brick wall. Called corruption and now a world laughing stock!

  7. People should ask themselves the question – How come with almost no one traveling the international price of Heroin has remained stable?

    The “War on Drugs” is a war on competition.

  8. @Ben, It depends in who’s eyes you are referring to? In the eyes of the average monger who goes to Pattaya looking for someone his granddaughters age to have sexy with? Doesn’t change it at all. For your average tourist who is looking for a good deal? Maybe a few with good morals and a concern over drugs generally. For international investors who have to work with government official and are accountable for issues with corruption back in their own countries, even if committed overseas? I’d say a fair few.

  9. That’s what countries like Thailand just do not understand. The idea that you could be committing a crime as an investor back in your own country for something you did overseas is incomprehensible. The idea would not even cross their mind or else this kind of situation wouldn’t exist. And so they fail to see this slow drag in the country. Almost subliminal but a driver for the general international attitude towards the country. Every country has these issues. Be it the view that all Americans are loud and brash. Or all British are aloof and arrogant. Or all Colombians are drug dealers. None of which is true, just as not all Thais are scammers. I’ll let others decide what the overall international view of Thailand is. But these type of things set the tone I would suggest

  10. RENE THIS IS just one of many they are all corrupt and are killing beautiful Thailand daily with thier stupid decisions then day after change them again the thai people are so beautiful and kind the dictators are the laughing stock of the world
    Why cant they just float away in thier yellow submarine and let the people choose a government that arent corrupt or dictators

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