Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday dismissed reports that his deputy, General Prawit Wongsuwan, would resign amid growing pressure over the luxury wristwatch scandal.
Prayut said people should not mix up Prawit’s private matters and his work. Prawit’s personal belongings had nothing to do with the national budget, the premier emphasised.
The issue should be left for the National Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate, he added.
Prayut also said he could not exercise his absolute power under Article 44 to deal with the scandal. When he had done so in the past to punish officials involved in wrongdoings, the relevant agencies had to make a proper proposal to his office first, he said.
“It’s not that we can rely on the Article 44 all the time. I have to be careful using it,” Prayut said.
Prawit, meanwhile, said he was worried about nothing, even though some international media outlets had reported on the issue.
Before leaving Government House in his van, Prawit, who was apparently in a bad mood, simply said he would not allow reporters to ask him questions about the watches.
Pressure is building on Prawit despite a former military officer’s revelation confirming the deputy prime minister’s account of the origins of the watches: that they belonged to a friend from secondary school who had subsequently died.
However, former deputy prime minister, MR Pridiyathorn Devakula, another friend of Prawit’s from the same secondary school, said early this week that if he faced similar circumstances, he would have already resigned. He also said that he believed Prawit would resign soon because of the mounting pressure.
Prawit is facing fierce criticism after being photographed wearing many different high-end timepieces. Members of the public are continuing to ask how a military officer making less than Bt1 million a year could possibly have afforded the luxury items.
The government’s inaction and Prawit’s account that the watches had been lent to him by a late friend continue to draw questions and scepticism, including from the international media.