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Despite vindication, “Rolex General” is back in the hot seat

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Despite vindication, “Rolex General” is back in the hot seat | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Chiang Rai Times

Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon, dubbed “The Rolex General” after a scandal over luxury watches, is once again in the spotlight.

Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission has been criticised for subverting the system of checks and balances of politicians and high ranking officials. Its explanation about Prawit’ “borrowed” luxury watches has drawn scrutiny and criticism.

The explanation came in a letter dated Monday and sent by the NACC to an opposition politician, 17 months after he wrote to them.

A member of the opposition Pheu Thai Party asked the NACC on January 3, 2019 to explain why it didn’t find Prawit guilty of failing to declare 22 luxury watches, which he claimed to have “borrowed from a friend” who later died. The original ruling was made on December 26, 2018.

The party member publicised the letter widely, signed by the acting NACC secretary-general, and it has been widely shared online. The letter says the NACC commissioners acknowledged that a Pattawat Suksriwong was the actual owner of the luxury watches and had lent them to Prawit. It also confirmed that Prawit had returned the watches, worth tens of millions of baht, to Pattawat after using them.

“The borrowing is a ‘loan for use’. While a loan for use is a liability, it is not the type the NAAC requires to be declared in its asset declaration form.”

“The NACC’s definition of liabilities only covers money, not loans for use, in which the assets have been returned to the lenders in their original form, with no money involved.”

“Therefore, General Prawit is not obliged to declare the borrowed watches as liabilities in his asset declaration form.”

A former finance minister posted on Facebook that the interpretation of “liabilities” by the incumbent commissioners runs against common sense. A prevailing interpretation of liabilities is anything of monetary value, not a case where real money is involved.

“For the sake of transparency,” he urged the NACC to list cases in which it had convicted or acquitted people in the past for the same reason, how it interpreted each of those cases and whether those interpretations were in line with its the letter to the Pheu Thai member.

A law professor, former MP from the now-dissolved Future Forward Party and leader of the Progressive Movement, wrote on Facebook that such an interpretation opens the door for widespread asset concealment.

“The NACC’s interpretation destroys the checks and balances of politicians and government officials and renders useless the requirement that they declare assets and liabilities,”

He says that from now on, any politician or official who wants to hide his assets can “borrow” using this “loan for use” trick. Assets such as accessories, rings, necklaces, watches and sports cars, need not be declared anymore.

“All you have to do is get a rich friend of yours to say it is their assets and then explain the properties were borrowed from him.”

In the past, politicians and officials often tried to avoid declaring assets by having other people, even their helpers, chauffeurs and close aides, listed as the owners.

“Yet the NACC tried hard to establish the real owners, deterring the practice.” The interpretation of the NACC today has given politicians and officials a new channel to hide their assets.”

“To protect the heart of the military regime, do we really need to trade it with the checks and balances we have so painstakingly built since 1997?”

Prawit was in the hot seat in 2017 after some media members spotted a US$370,000 (11.8 million baht) Richard Mille watch on his wrist in a photo taken at a ceremony for Cabinet ministers. Investigations of photos taken at other public events showed that he had worn at least 22 luxury watches worth a combined 40 million baht and expensive rings in public.

The watches and jewellery were not included in the asset declaration that Prawit filed with the NACC on in September 2014, after taking on the positions of deputy PM and Defence Minister.

Source: Chiang Rai Times |Bangkok Post

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Pattaya police raid nightclub suspected of presenting pornographic shows

Caitlin Ashworth

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Pattaya police raid nightclub suspected of presenting pornographic shows | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook/นิธิธร จินตกานนท์

Pattaya City Police inspected a nightclub after reports that the venue was hosting pornographic shows on the weekends. Although the nightclub, Dragon Man Club, wasn’t presenting a sexually explicit show when officers came by, the owner was arrested for operating an entertainment business and selling alcohol without the proper permit.

Police say a tip was made through social media from an anonymous source. Officers asked the nightclub owner for the venue’s license, but the owner did not have the document at the time. Police arrested the owner. The nightclub owner was not named in reports.

SOURCE: Pattaya News

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Crime

Bangkok Military Court issues arrest warrant for medic accused of injecting troops with fake Covid-19 vaccine

Caitlin Ashworth

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Bangkok Military Court issues arrest warrant for medic accused of injecting troops with fake Covid-19 vaccine | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook/Royal Thai Army

The Bangkok Military Court has issued an arrest warrant for a Royal Thai Army medic who is accused of injecting troops with a fake Covid-19 vaccine. He reportedly made more than 100,000 baht by charging troops, who were on a United Nations mission, 500 baht each for a tetanus vaccine and a fake Covid-19 vaccine, which an internal army investigation determined was just saline solution.

The Thai Army held a press conference after the medic’s fake vaccine scam made headlines, saying the incident had tarnished the army’s image. The field medic, who was also a lieutenant, injected more than 250 Thai troops stationed in South Sudan on a UN peacekeeping mission with the fake vaccine, claiming it was the head doctor’s order, Army Army spokesperson Santipong Thammapiya confirmed. He says the medic was in the Thai-South Sudan Horizontal Military Engineering Company.

“This incident affects the image of the Thai Armed Forces and Thailand in the United Nations mission. It is a serious disciplinary offence and also violates ethical standards as the wrongdoer is a doctor.”

The medic injected troops with a legitimate vaccine for tetanus as well as a saline solution shot he claimed was a Covid-19 vaccine. He charged 500 baht for the vaccine package, adding up to more than 100,000 baht, according to a UN investigation.

The medic had been sent back to Thailand. The Bangkok Military Court has now issued a warrant for his arrest. Previous reports said the medic’s license was revoked, but a recent report by Nation Thailand says the Medical Council is considering whether to revoke his doctor’s license.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Crime

Gunman kills mayoral candidate, injures 4 other municipal candidates at funeral

Caitlin Ashworth

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Gunman kills mayoral candidate, injures 4 other municipal candidates at funeral | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Facebook/ ยงข่าวร้อน

A gunman shot and killed a woman running for mayor and wounded 4 others at a funeral in Ratchaburi, a province west of Bangkok near the Myanmar border. Police say they suspect the shooting was politically motivated. Out of the 4 people injured, 3 were running in the March 28 municipal election while another was the kamnan, a government official of a tambon, which is a sub district.

The gunman is still at large, but police say they suspect the shooter is Wanchart Niamraksa, a member of the Ratchaburi provincial administration organisation.

The gunman opened fire just as the kamnan of tambon Don Sai, Yingpan Kanket, was lighting candles and incense sticks under a Buddha image to start the ceremony, witnesses say. Shots were fired from behind the main Buddha image at the temple’s open prayer hall, witnesses say.

Bullets hit 5 people, including Yingpan who is in critical condition. Varaporn Niamraksa, who was running for mayor of the municipality, was shot and died at the hospital. Nakhon Wanpen, Somthawil Srirat and Monthien Jaitham, who are all running for the municipal council of tambon Don Sai, were shot.

Police found 2 spent .22 cartridges and a 11mm spent shell at the scene. The suspect faces charges of murder, attempted murder, carrying firearms and ammunition without permission and carrying them in public without a proper reason.

SOURCES: Nation Thailand | Bangkok Post

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