Despite his poor health, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan welcomed early birthday wishes on Friday, the day before he turns 73.
The eldest and considered one of most senior figures in the ruling junta, Prawit greeted well wishes from over 40 military personnel and police officers at his Five Provinces Bordering Forest Preservation Foundation.
Despite the annual routine, Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha was not at Friday’s celebration.
“Thank you for all the wishes. I hope you won’t mind some words I have said. I didn’t mean that but sometimes my words are interpreted,” said Prawit, who is well known for his “uncaring words” when interacting with reporters.
“But sometimes I get tired with social media, where my words are distorted,” he said.
“I never want to damage the country and wish the country would move forward fast,” he added. “Everything is in order as the National Council for Peace and Order is entering its fifth year. Police, military and administrative officers have helped each other.”
While the two-time minister is known to have broad connections with top political figures and has greatly helped sustain the NCPO in the political arena, he is also one of the junta’s most controversial figures for not only his rough words with the press but also allegations of corruption.
The investigations into Prawit’s pricey three-day official trip to Hawaii that cost Bt20.9 million in 2016 and his luxury watches, estimated to be worth over Bt30 million, have gone nowhere.
Last month, Chinese social media users also raged as Prawit said during his interview that the tragic boat sinking in Phuket, taking away lives of over 40 Chinese tourists, was a result of an illegal Chinese tour operator and that “the Chinese just harmed themselves”.
Prawit later apologised for his remarks.
Due to his age, Prawit receives regular medical treatment. Last year, he went absent from work for a whole week before reappearing having lost weight. He allegedly had heart surgery during the period.
He was also brought back to Bangkok during the mobile Cabinet meeting in Ubon Ratchathani due to diarrhoea, according to a government spokesperson.