Upakit was a longtime business partner of Myanmar businessman Tun Min Latt, according to testimony made earlier this month in Parliament by opposition MP Rangsiman Rome of the Move Forward Party. The Myanmar mogul was detained in Bangkok last September, and allegations of drug trafficking and money laundering were brought against him in December.
Together with three other Thai citizens, he was imprisoned by Thai officials, who also seized their assets worth more than 500 million baht.
Dean Young Gultula, the son-in-law of Upakit, was one of the three Thais detained.
A significant stakeholder in the senator’s company is another suspect that Thai police are still searching for.
According to reports, Tun Min Latt and Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the Burmese military that overthrew an elected government in a coup in February 2021, have a close relationship. Moreover, Tun Min Latt is said to have purchased weaponry for Myanmar’s government, which has begun a ruthless offensive against a widespread civil rebellion against military rule.
During the special parliamentary debate, opposition Member Rangsiman alluded to Upakit in an apparent effort to associate him with Prime Leader Prayut Chan-o-cha and his new party Ruam Thai Sang Chart (United Thai Nation).
The National Council for Peace and Order in Thailand, which is governed by coup leader Prayut, nominated Upakit to the position of senator. Moreover, Upakit’s home in Bangkok’s Soi Ari neighborhood also happens to be where Prayut’s party’s offices are housed.
Upakit, 61, has disputed that he is close to the contentious tycoon from Burma. He claimed to know Tun Min Latt through a company that supplied energy along the Thailand-Myanmar border, but he asserted that they were not partners in any nefarious transactions.
The senator reportedly told the media shortly after the Myanmar tycoon’s detention last year that Tun Min Latt was not engaged with drugs or illegal weapons and that the legal issues stemmed from Western nations’ sanctions against the Burmese junta.
Upakit, who was born on October 28, 1961, earned a master’s degree from Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Skidmore College in the US.
Between 1976 to 1980, his father, Upadit, held the position of foreign minister in the administrations of Thanin Kraivichien and General Kriangsak Chamanan.
Upakit is also well-known for being the ex-husband of controversial politician Pareena Kraikupt, who was disqualified from office for intruding on public property. After having a kid together, they got divorced in December 2014.
Before leaving the Foreign Affairs Ministry in 1999 at the age of 37 to start a business, Upakit spent nearly ten years there. His company was able to negotiate a $12 million deal with the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism of the former Myanmar regime in order to construct and run a hotel-casino in the border town of Tachileik thanks to his ties over the border.
Afterwards, he established the Allure Group as a business to run the Allure Resort Hotel. Tachileik receives electricity from the Provincial Electricity Authority of Thailand through a different business of his that is listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand, United Power of Asia.
Police are searching for Pannarong Khunpitak, another significant Allure Group shareholder, on suspicion of involvement in drug trafficking and online gambling.
a successful businessman
Upakit credits his excellent contacts in the neighboring country of Myanmar for his commercial success. He enjoyed solid relations with current dictator Min Aung Hlaing, just as he did with former military strongman General Thein Sein.
But prior to assuming his position as a senator in May 2019, Upakit reportedly sold his stakes in Thai enterprises as well as his businesses in Myanmar.
The senator reported selling the Allure Resort Hotel for $8.1 million (or around 251.7 million baht) and selling his United Power of Asia shares for 554 million baht in financial documents he provided to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). He listed 1.77 billion baht in assets.
Rangsiman and the other members of Move Forward have expressed concerns that the senator may not have actually sold his stock in the Allure Resort Hotel. They claimed that they will ask the NACC to look into any potential asset misstatement by Upakit.
Upakit has filed a libel suit against Rangsiman, attorney Achariya Ruangratanapong, and TV news broadcasters Danai Ekamahasawat and Amornrat Mahitthirook in response to claims that he is involved in money laundering for a drug network. 100 million, 50 million, and 50 million baht in damages are sought in the three lawsuits, respectively. If he prevails in the trials, Upakit has promised to donate the money to charity.