AN ANTI-CORRUPTION activist has started a campaign to seek the impeachment of five members of the national anti-graft agency who voted to clear Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan of any wrongdoing in the luxury wristwatch scandal.
Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Thai Constitution, yesterday urged the president of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, to “consider what he should do” to take responsibility for what he described as the agency’s “loss of public confidence”.
Watcharapol had withdrawn from the case following criticism that he could be biased in favour of General Prawit since he was a former subordinate of the general.
The others on the nine-member NACC last Thursday voted 5-3 to drop charges against Prawit, who was investigated for allegedly possessing a large number of luxury watches without reporting them to the anti-graft agency, as required by law. The ruling drew flak from both critics and politicians.
The NACC said it found that the watches – together valued at more than Bt20 million – belonged to a deceased friend of Prawit, as the deputy PM-defence minister had initially claimed, and that he had concealed assets.
At his teashop at Ying Charoen Market in Bangkok’s Bang Khen district yesterday, Srisuwan launched his signature campaign to impeach the five NACC members.
He aims to collect at least 20,000 signatures to start the impeachment process, as allowed by the Constitution. Srisuwan said he expected to reach the number within two weeks.
The charter gives citizens who muster the support of at least 20,000 eligible voters the right to petition the National Assembly president to take action against any NACC member who “deliberately performs duties or exercises powers contrary to the provisions of the Constitution or the law, or seriously contravenes or fails to comply with the ethical standards”.
If the accusation is found to have ground, the case would be referred to the Supreme Court’s Criminal Division for Persons Holding Political Positions.
Srisuwan said his petition would focus on the five commissioners who voted to absolve Prawit. The NACC president should strive to restore the credibility the agency lost due to its decision, he said. He considered it Watcharapol’s responsibility, even though the NACC chief had recused himself from the case.
Meanwhile, Election Commission (EC) secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma yesterday refused to confirm or deny speculation that the next general election could be postponed from the scheduled February 24. Jarungvith said the EC would announce the official election date within five days of a royal decree on the election being issued next month.
The election must bea held between February 24 and May 9, within the 150-day legal timeframe under the new Constitution, after the new organic law on the election of MPs came into effect on December 11.
“The EC needs to take all relevant factors into consideration, including the printing of ballot papers,” Jarungvith said. “There is no delay in the election. The EC has not yet set the date for the national vote. February 24 is just one of the days that the EC is ready to hold the election,” he added.
Earlier, there was speculation that the general election could be postponed for a month because of the demands of printing ballot papers that need to have different details like candidate names and numbers, their political parties and logos, for each of the constituencies.
EC president Ittiporn Boonpracong said yesterday he was unaware of any discussion on postponing the election.