Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin has apologised for referring to Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon’s flashing 25 ultra-luxury watches worth an estimated B36 million in total.
Prawit claims he borrowed the precious timepieces and has now returned them. Thais and observers worldwide have been wondering how Prawit obtained the watches, and pondering if the lenders might have had ulterior motives in handing over such costly trinkets to a key decision-maker on multibillion-dollar arms purchases.
“If it was me who had been exposed, I would have resigned [from the Cabinet] when the first wristwatch came to light,” Teerakiat said. His comment, however appropriate, was a breach of etiquette, and he is to be praised for apologising.
But, like Caesar’s wife, public servants with purse-string powers must be above suspicion – and with his consistent stonewalling as to the watches’ provenance, Prawit certainly is acting like he has lots to hide. On top of that, Premier Prayut’s attempts to protect his deputy are most unseemly – especially when this junta grabbed power to cleanse us of corruption.
Thus, I suggest that it’s Prawit who has crossed a more significant line than Teerakiat. By his dogged refusal to come clean, the deputy PM has severely and consistently besmirched the reputation of the entire government in the international arena. For his part, PM Prayut has de facto confirmed suspicions that his junta is not willing even to clean up its own house.
Prayut should hand Prawit his marching papers immediately and apologise to all Thais for not acting promptly to make the matter transparent.