Deputy PM General Prawit Wongsuwan has submitted a letter explaining his possession of luxurious watches and a diamond ring, which he failed to include in his assets declaration, to the anti-graft agency. The letter named a third party who would be called upon to testify in the case, according to the anti-graft agency, the National Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday.
A meeting of the NACC yesterday was told that Prawit had submitted his letter to the agency as required, said Pol General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, the NACC president, and the commission was now examining the letter in detail.
Photos of Prawit wearing several luxurious watches on different occasions went viral on social media beginning two weeks ago. The controversy began after he was spotted wearing what appeared to be a silver and black Richard Mille watch and diamond ring during a group photo with the reshuffled Cabinet at Government House on December 4. While the items appear to be worth several million baht, he had failed to mention them to the NACC in his assets disclosure.
PM Prayut Chan-o-cha said last week that his deputy’s possession of expensive watches was a personal matter, but no one could spare him if he was found guilty. NACC secretary-general Worawit Sookboon said yesterday that the issue concerns a third party, so the NACC would summon the party to testify early next year. Luxurious watches other than the watch first exposed during the Cabinet group photo-taking would also be subject to the agency’s probe, Worawit said, but declined to confirm either the number of watches Prawit possesses or to make public the deputy PMs explanation letter.
Worawit affirmed that the NACC would hold a press conference once the fact-finding has been completed, citing the issue as being in the public interest. The NACC normally initiates an assets scrutiny probe following procedures outlined by the NACC law. In the event of a complaint or the surfacing of sufficient grounds to warrant a probe, such as reports in the media, the NACC would initiate a probe to verify the facts. When assets are transferred between people, a more in-depth investigation is warranted.
Prawit’s case, said Worawit, falls in to the second type of probe by the NACC. Worawit also declined to say whether the first watch to be publicly questioned had belonged to a friend of Prawit who had already passed away, as the issue is still being investigated by authorities. Worawit also dismissed the notion that Prawit would receive help from the NACC due to his close relationship with NACC President Pol General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit. Worawit said the anti-corruption organisation is obliged to do their job following the law, and people should have trust in it.
In a related development, the NACC has disclosed assets of two junta ministers and a junta member of the National Legislative Assembly. Political office holders, when first entering office and also within one year of leaving office, are required to declare their assets to the NACC under the NACC law.
Former Labour Minister General Sirichai Distakul, who was required to report his assets within one year of leaving office, along with his partner, have assets worth 108.75 million baht and no debts. That is a 16.67 million baht increase from when he first took office, at which time he declared about 92.07 million baht, and is the value of his new house.
Sirichai also possesses 12 declared watches, some of which are reportedly worth 1.8 million baht each. New deputy Defence Minister General Charnchai Changmongkol, who had left the National Legislative Assembly to take the post, along with his partner, have assets worth 30.38 million baht, and no debts. That is a 3.71 million baht increase from when he first entered the NLA. General Teerachai Nakwanich, a former member of the NLA who has been out of office for one year, along with his partner have assets worth 77.66 million baht, and no debts. That is a 10.66 baht decrease in assets from when he first entered the office, which were around 88.32 million baht. It is the value of his new house. Teerachai also possesses two ivories worth 542,500 baht.
STORY: The Nation
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