PM backs down as ‘puppy-gate’ graft inquiry piles pressure on alleged govt corruption

politics January 04, 2018 01:00

By THE NATION

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KEY GOVERNMENT figures drawn into “puppy-gate” yesterday appeared to be trying to distance themselves from the controversy after the matter was brought to the anti-graft agency.



Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha offered to sell pricey pedigree puppies that he had bought from local breeders during his Cabinet’s recent retreat in Phitsanulok. 

The move came after Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Thai Constitution, petitioned the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), seeking an investigation to determine whether the prime minister had condoned violations of the anti-graft law that prohibits public officials from accepting gifts valued at more than Bt3,000.

Prayut previously had said he would give puppies to both Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda and Deputy Prime Minister Chatchai Sarikalya. 

The prime minister bought three young dogs belonging to the famous Bangkaew breed for Bt25,000, although the market price was Bt6,000 for each puppy. He said the extra money was meant to encourage local breeders. 

Prayut yesterday was asked to comment on the possibility that his gifts to fellow Cabinet members could constitute a violation of the anti-corruption law. He responded: “I have not yet received any of the puppies that I paid for. Anyone interested may buy them from me.”

“I was just being considerate [of the breeders],” he said during his weekly press briefing at Government House. “The extra money was for vaccination and transport costs. 

“I’m aware of the law,” he added. “[Anupong] told me he has to care for his dogs at home first,” Prayut said in an apparent joke.

Meanwhile, Anupong said he was aware that it was against the law for public office holders to accept gifts worth more than Bt3,000 and he would not accept a puppy from the prime minister because he knew that its price exceeded that amount. When asked to comment about Srisuwan’s petition with the NACC, the interior minister said the whistle-blower had the right to file it.

Also yesterday, Saner Chanput, the dog breeder from whom the premier bought the puppies, said Phitsanulok livestock authorities would deliver them|to Prayut after they were vaccinated. 

The chief provincial livestock official, Thawat Pumnak, said the 47-day-old puppies would get the necessary vaccinations and later be delivered to the prime minister when they were healthy enough.

In a separate development, the NACC called a press conference for tomorrow to update its progress on the investigation into several graft complaints, including regarding the possession of a luxury watch by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, the NACC’s newly appointed secretary-general Worawit Sukboon said yesterday.

The agency launched an investigation a month ago into how and when Prawit acquired luxury watches and a diamond ring, since he had not included watches or rings in his list of assets submitted to the NACC in 2014 when he took office. 

Prawit was caught by social media users wearing a multi-million-baht luxury watch about one month ago, leading to a deepening scandal.