Australia: Sinister minister: Thai Parliament to ask for Australia's help over politician's crime past - PressFrom - Australia
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Australia Sinister minister: Thai Parliament to ask for Australia's help over politician's crime past

22:10  09 october  2019
22:10  09 october  2019 Source:   smh.com.au

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a man holding a microphone: Thammanat Prompao has been at the centre of several scandals.© Facebook Thammanat Prompao has been at the centre of several scandals.

A Thai parliamentary committee has vowed to ask Australia for details of a top cabinet minister’s criminal past after revelations he spent four years in a Sydney jail for heroin trafficking.

As the scandal surrounding Thammanat Prompao simmers after the Herald and The Age revealed the extent of his involvement in a criminal conspiracy to import 3.2kg of heroin, a committee tasked with preventing political corruption said it would approach Australian authorities for details that would aid its investigation.

a screenshot of a cell phone: Details from the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal judgment dismissing an appeal on sentence severity by Manat Bophlom and Sorasat Tiemtad.© CCA Details from the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal judgment dismissing an appeal on sentence severity by Manat Bophlom and Sorasat Tiemtad.

Committee chair Seripisut Temiyavet said his team would approach the Australian embassy for information about Thammanat’s 1993 conviction and was keen to see the Court of Criminal Appeal’s final ruling in the matter. The Australian embassy in Bangkok had not received any official request as of Wednesday.

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Before the revelations, Thammanat had dismissed questions about his past as a misunderstanding and claimed he was only briefly detained.

Thammanat told the BBC Thai service, which ran a lengthy investigative piece about the case on Wednesday, that he would also write to Australian authorities requesting the full judgment.

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The Herald and The Age published details of the appeal ruling held by the NSW Supreme Court and an account of his court file from the NSW District Court file, which show he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import a commercial quantity of heroin with a street value of $4.1 million.

Seripisut, a former top policeman who leads the opposition-aligned Seri Ruam Thai Party, also promised to use the committee’s authority to send an investigator to Sydney to examine court records. He will also send someone to Vanuatu as part of the investigation into Thammanat’s degrees, which are suspected to be bogus.

“I will stop investigating him when he quits,” Seripisut said.

He has reserved his right to force Thammanat to testify before the committee, saying he was waiting until he had complete information from Australia and elsewhere before issuing a summons.

Australian court documents show Thammanat, using the name Manat Bophlom, was arrested on April 15, 1993, and charged with conspiring to import 3.2kg of heroin.

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When told by a judge in November 1993 he faced up to nine years' jail, he began co-operating in return for a lesser sentence. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced on March 31, 1994, to six years’ jail with a non-parole period of four years. He appealed the severity of his sentence and, on March 10, 1995, the NSW Court of Criminal Appeal rejected his application. He was released from Parklea prison on April 14, 1997, and deported.

Thammanat plays an important role in the post-junta government as he is the key negotiator for the army-aligned party in a tenuous parliamentary coalition.

His legal team and the government’s top constitutional expert have separately asserted there is no legal obstacle to him serving as an MP. However, one deputy prime minister conceded questions over the authenticity of his doctorate could result in him being removed on ethical grounds.

Thammanat’s story on the heroin importation has changed several times. In July when the Thai media first learned of a dark past, he said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was released within months. When the Herald and The Age approached in September, his office said “our statement remains unchanged as we have always been truthful to the public”.

After the court details were published, he told Parliament he spent time in “state-sponsored accommodation” as a witness in another case. He later said in a statement he had returned to Thailand after serving a court sentence in Australia, but stopped short of acknowledging what he was convicted of.

Leaving a cabinet meeting last week, he brushed aside questions about the case as “nonsense”.

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