More fantasy from lord of the rings
Once again the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) left us disappointed as its much-awaited media briefing on "The Lord of the Rings" -- Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon -- left us without answers.
The briefing was supposed to give details of the clarification letter that was sent to the NACC a week earlier by Gen Prawit.
The supposedly neutral and unbiased NACC had given Gen Prawit Wongsuwon until tomorrow to hand-in his explanation.
Umesh Pandey is Editor, Bangkok Post.
He submitted a letter well ahead of the deadline, on Dec 27, but failed to offer any explanation about the glittering diamond ring that he was seen wearing along with the numerous watches he had grown notorious for over the past month or so.
Gen Prawit has been in hot water since Dec 4 when he, along with the new cabinet lineup of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, had gathered for a group picture, and the glaring sunlight prompted Mr Prawit to cover his eyes, thus revealing his glittering accessories -- a large ring and a 2.5-million-baht Swiss-made Richard Mille wristwatch.
Social media experts sought to dig out whether these assets were declared as per the law, which states that any politician must declare their assets during their time in office. As it turned out, Gen Prawit had not done so. He insisted the ring was from him family, and he had borrowed the watch from a friend who had since passed away.
But Gen Prawit in his Dec 27 letter -- the contents of which have not been made public -- listed four people who supposedly lent him luxury timepieces.
Meanwhile, observers have supposedly identified as many as 16 different watches sported by Gen Prawit but apparently not declared as assets. Together with the ring, these items are valued at more than a million dollars.
NACC deputy secretary-general Worawit Sukboon said the agency has given Gen Prawit 15 more days to offer more clarity on the matter. While it waits, the NACC is hoping to question more people -- hopefully still alive -- about the matter.
What is surprising is the fact that the NACC, which not too long ago was calling all those involved in political cases to its office for questioning, has decided to "meet" the four watch-loaners Gen Prawit has named in private.
Previous politicians subject to investigation by the commission have all had to face the media and the public gathered outside the NACC office, a move designed to prove transparency, but for some reason this standard operating procedure seems to have been ignored in the case of Gen Prawit.
Is this because Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, the incumbent NACC president, was a political appointee by this junta, and prior to this appointment he was Gen Prawit's secretary-general?
The literally million-dollar question, though, is why is Gen Prawit still in office?
Can anyone who has overthrown an elected government based on the battle cry of wiping out corruption remain in office while accusations of corruption on his own part hang over him?
While he trots out lame excuses that these assets that he has been seen wearing belonged to his mother, father, deceased friend, or whomever else?
How many friends lend more than dozen high-end watches to another friend to wear? And is Gen Prawit not supposed to refuse offers of luxury products -- even if they are merely loaned -- while he is in office, where he becomes a role model?
Receiving any kind of favour -- be it borrowing luxury watches, vehicles, private jets or anything else -- can at least lead to suspicion of some kind of corruption, as it reasonable for people to believe favours are granted in return for something.
Is Gen Prawit not aware that when one assumes the big office that their personal interests go on the backburner and that anything they do that could benefit anyone else could be construed as a breach of ethics and the constitution?
Unlike in the novel Lord of the Rings, where the one ring that was to rule all other rings of power and give Gollum a life that extended well beyond the natural lifespan, the ring of Gen Prawit seems to be having an opposite impact.
Gollum's "precious" twisted his body and mind and his love-hate relationship with the ring remained until his demise.
Similarly, Gen Prawit's love for the ring and the timepieces must be tearing him apart after being the centre of attraction for more than a month now.
Bangkok Post Editor
Umesh Pandey is Editor, Bangkok Post.