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Prawit excuse ridiculed

Politicians, public urge PM to act

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon wore this Patek Philippe Complications Annual Calendar watch, retail value 1.5 million baht, at a religious ceremony on Oct 26, 2014, at a temple in Pla Pak distict, Nakhon Phanom.

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Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon's explanation for his collection of 25 luxury watches on Tuesday has been met with scepticism by the public. However, it is up to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to take action and ensure the issue is dealt with transparently, critics say.

Democrat Party leader and fromer prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the scandal could undermine confidence in the regime. "If the premier still wants to use the term good governance, he should take action and set a political standard," he said. 

"This government has blamed old generations of politicians for many things. But I would like to point to the ethical standards of my [former] government.

"I made sure to clear up any issues the public saw as being suspicious. Two of my ministers even resigned on a matter of concern despite the National Anti-Corruption Commission [NACC] finding them not guilty."

Gen Prawit has taken flak for being photographed wearing 25 different luxury watches. These have not been declared among his assets, leading to questions as to how he was able to afford them on a military salary.

He told reporters at Government House on Tuesday that he had borrowed all of the timepieces from friends and only wore them occasionally. All the watches have since been returned, he claimed. He refused to disclose how many watches he owns and said he was ready to resign if the NACC concludes he has committed any wrongdoing.

The saga has led to public doubt in the NACC, according to Mr Abhisit. Thais want to know how many watches Gen Prawit had borrowed from his friends and who these friends are, he said.

Former Democrat MP Charnchai Issarasenarak said Gen Prayut must choose between his "brother" and the country. "If you want peace and unity, you need to make it clear what is right and what is wrong, not choose cronyism."

The Pheu Thai Party's former minister Watana Muangsook said it would be strange if his friends all wore the same size watch which just happens to fit Gen Prawit's wrist.

NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon declined to comment on Gen Prawit's remarks, saying only that the NACC was doing its job. 

NACC president Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, a former subordinate of Gen Prawit's, is also in the spotlight. Critics have said his relationship with the deputy prime minister casts doubt over the integrity of the probe.

Pol Gen Watcharapol has dismissed such worries and promised a "clean" investigation. 

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