THE BALL is now in the court of the national anti-graft agency as calls grew yesterday for it to take decisive and transparent action over the luxury-watch scandal involving Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan.
Government critics remain unconvinced by Prawit’s claim that the many luxury watches he has been photographed wearing in recent years actually belonged to his friends.
Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, yesterday called on the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) to bring Prawit’s case to the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases.
In an article published on the Isra News website, Mana said he believed the court would “make all the facts known”.
He called on the NACC to conduct in-depth investigations into the controversy to determine the real owners of the watches, and refer the case to public prosecutors for further legal action if any wrongdoing was suspected.
Mana said Prawit’s unconvincing claim had made “it seem the government’s responsibility and consciousness has completely gone in the eye of the public”.
Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Thai Constitution, also said in a Facebook message that Prawit’s excuse was unconvincing.
The whistle-blower said such expensive wristwatches were normally customised to the wearer’s wrist size and their owners would not allow others to wear them and taint them with sweat and body odour.
Srisuwan also said that if Prawit insisted on his claim, the NACC should summon all of the supposed owners to make sure that the watches were customised for them.
If they are the true owners, they should be able to wear the watches comfortably, he added.
Meanwhile, Pheu Thai Party yesterday asked Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha whether he really was convinced by Prawit’s explanation regarding the luxury watches.
Anusorn Iamsa-ard, caretaker spokesman for the former ruling party, said such an explanation was “not beyond expectations” but he wondered whether the public would believe what Prawit had said.
“This issue could adversely affect the government. When he hears about this explanation, does General Prayut Chan-o-cha, the prime minister and National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) head, find it acceptable? Does he have friends who can lend him so many watches?” Anusorn said.
Prawit has been spotted wearing as many as 24 expensive watches since the junta came to power in May 2014, many of them valued at millions of baht. He submitted a written explanation to the NACC but it has not been disclosed to the public.
Faced with mounting pressure, Prawit on Tuesday told the media that he had borrowed all the watches from his friends and already returned them all. He also pledged to resign if the NACC found him guilty.
Meanwhile, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday reiterated his call for the government to deal with the wristwatch controversy with transparency and good governance. He said that Prayut should set a political standard.
The former prime minister said in his government some Cabinet members resigned following scandals involving their ministries, even though they were later found to be innocent.
He called on Prawit to step down to prevent the scandal from undermining the government, but this call was described by Prayut as “political discourse” and an attempt to gain a political advantage. Abhisit also said he was simply concerned about the government’s image.
“I want to see a clear explanation to the public. If suspicions remain and this is allowed to continue, the government will end up lacking confidence and support from the public,” he said. “At least the prime minister and General Prawit should talk and find out what to do to prevent this issue from impacting the government’s credibility,” Abhisit added.
In a related development, the NCPO said it would not summon Srisuwan for “attitude adjustment” despite his recent political activities.
NCPO spokesman Maj-General Piyapong Klinphan said yesterday that Srisuwan had not committed any wrongdoing but he added that the NCPO was monitoring Srisuwan’s actions.
Published : Jun 30, 2022
Published : January 17, 2018
By : THE NATION