January 17, 2024
BANGKOK – Democrat Party leader Chalermchai Sri-on claimed certain government figures were trying to discredit him by linking him to the pork smuggling case.
On Tuesday, Chalermchai called a press conference and brought fellow Democrat MPs together in a show of solidarity.
The press conference, held at the Democrat Party headquarters, was called to prove he had no links with the alleged pork smuggling case linked to former secretary Somkiart Korbphaisarn.
Addressing reporters, Chalermchai clarified that while Somkiart is a relative, the relationship is not as close as portrayed by some media outlets.
Somkiart served as Chalermchai’s secretary during the Democrat leader’s tenure as the agriculture minister under then-prime minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Chalermchai was also responding to comments earlier in the day from the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and the justice minister regarding the case against Somkiart.
DSI deputy director-general Yutthana Praedam had told reporters that Somkiart and two other suspects had turned themselves in after returning from abroad on Monday.
Yutthana said the suspects denied all charges against them and asked for more time to gather evidence to defend themselves.
He said Somkiart was close to Chalermchai, but DSI investigators had found no evidence of him abusing any connection with the former agriculture minister to carry out his businesses. Yutthana added that it was unclear who might be further summoned for questioning in connection with the case.
Justice Minister Thawee Sodsong, meanwhile, emphasised that the DSI was not being used as a political tool for persecuting anybody and that the investigation was being conducted impartially.
However, Chalermchai told the press that political harassment had intensified in recent months, with attempts to link him to the pork smuggling case.
Chalermchai said that as agriculture minister, he had put his deputy, Praphat Phosuthon, in charge of the Livestock Development Department.
He said he got involved in the pork policy later due to an African Swine Flu outbreak, leading to his setting up a national committee.
The Democrat leader also highlighted his commitment to cracking down on pork smuggling, noting his past efforts in arresting smugglers and destroying up to a million kilograms of smuggled pork.
“I and my family have never done dirty business and I have never received a single baht of dirty money,” he said.
He also asserted that he had never sent a family member or nominee to receive funds from pork smugglers. He added that he would not protect anyone if they have done wrong, even if they are family members.