Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin has criticised the country's response to the Prawit watch scandal and said that he would step down from his Cabinet position if he was exposed to possess a luxury watch.
The remark, quoted in BBC Thai on Monday, came during a speech to Thai businessmen and students at the Thai embassy in London last Friday,
Teerakiat was comparing the rule of law and ethical awareness between Thailand and the United Kingdom. He said that Thai people were so “thick skinned” they would never resign from a position even when they were hit with a scandal.
Teerakiat did not mention Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan by name. Prawit is under investigation by the anti-graft agency for having about 25 expensive luxury watches.
Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has expressed his support for Prawit despite pressure from the public for his right hand man to resign.
Teerakiat said during his speech that Thailand lacks an ethical conscience.
As an example, he pointed to International Development Minister Lord Michael Bates who offered his resignation last month because he was a few minutes late for a debate at the House of Lords. His resignation was rejected by the prime minister.
“But in Thailand, [one] can survive despite having 25 watches,” he said jokingly.
Teerakait later told BBC Thai that ministers in Thailand would not resign if they were a few minutes late.
“It’s [about] conscience ... knowing what is right or wrong. Being late is not against the law but it’s about ethics. Since we did not teach people since they were young to have thin skin it is difficult ...Thais are thick skinned,” Teerakiat was quoted by BBC Thai.
“If I were exposed [to have luxury watches], I would have stepped down when the first watch [was exposed]. Other people don’t dare to speak out. I don’t know what they are afraid of. Will I be fired?” he said.