Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat in trouble over face mask controversy

Thailand’s Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao appears to be in the hot seat today, because a member of the core government party, Palang Pracharat, has demanded that he resigns from the cabinet after one of his aides was implicated in the hoarding of face masks.

Additionally, several Democrat MPs have called on the party to rethink its presence in the coalition government over the mask controversy.

Bangkok MP for the Pracharat party, Mr. Sira Jenjakha, today called on Thammanat to quit his post to show responsibility after one of his aides was accused of involvement in the hoarding of face masks.

Sira said that he was heavily criticized after face masks, bought with his own money for free distribution of the public, were found to be substandard, adding that he was also slammed by party members when he led police to raid an illegal gambling den in Phuket.

Although Thammanat has categorically denied any involvement in illegal hoarding, Sira claimed that the public still doubt the deputy agriculture minister.

Meanwhile, in the Democrat party, senior party member Charoen Kanthawong wrote in his Facebook post that the alleged involvement of an aide of Thammanat in the illegal hoarding of face masks indicates that there is a bad politician among the cabinet ministers.

He suggested the Democrats warn the Prime Minister that the party would pull out of the coalition if the tainted minister remains in the cabinet.

Thammanat claims that his aide, Mr. Pittinan Rak-iad, was not involved in the hoarding of face masks, but admitted that Pittinan had met with a broker, Sornsuvee Phuraveeratsawatcharee, who claimed on social media that he had 200 million face masks for sale to big customers, preferably Chinese.

The deputy agriculture minister suggested that his aide file a complaint with the police, seeking an investigation of Sornsuvee for hoarding masks.

Sornsuvee reported to Pol Gen Suwat Jaengyodsook, the deputy national police chief, at the Royal Thai Police Office, to deny the claim that he has 20 million face masks in his possession. He claimed he was just a broker between the producers and the actual buyers and had claimed to own 200 million face masks to boost his credibility.

Pol Gen Suwat said later that no charges have yet been filed against Sornsuvee.

Thammanat is no stranger to controversy. Previously, he has been accused by the opposition of lying about his educational background and of having served a prison term for drug trafficking in Australia.

Source: Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS)