PM rips media over Prawit bling furore
General fails to submit ring, watch account
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has defended his deputy, Prawit Wongsuwon, claiming the media stirred up a fuss over the deputy premier's luxury accessories to cause a rift between them.
Gen Prawit, who also serves as the minister of defence, has been in the spotlight after a picture of him wearing a diamond ring and a luxury watch spread across news media and the internet last week. This caught the attention of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) after suspicions emerged that he had failed to report them in his declaration of assets and liabilities as required by the anti-graft agency.
Gen Prawit, however, yesterday failed to submit a letter clarifying the acquisition of the watch and ring to the NACC as it had been reported he was requested to do.
Last week, Gen Prawit was asked to provide a written explanation to the NACC, but his letter has so far remained with the Office of the Minister of Defence due to the three-day holiday weekend.
The letter was expected to be submitted to the NACC yesterday.
At Government House, Gen Prayut said yesterday Gen Prawit did not need his moral support and could handle the issue himself.
"I don't have to deliver my moral support to him because he is a soldier and a grown man so he can take care of himself. We are not children," he said.
The premier asked the media to refrain from attacking Gen Prawit, saying the matter must be dealt in compliance with the judicial process.
"Many people target him, and want him to be divided from me. You [the media] all know this very well," he said.
"If nobody is beside me, I will tell you, I will be fiercer. I will fully exercise my power," he said.
Speaking about feedback from political parties which reaffirmed their trust in his transparency but not his ministers, Prime Minister Prayut extended his thanks, saying he has always instructed his subordinates and relevant authorities to work with transparency.
The prime minister said all decisions about previous projects have been made by the cabinet, not the deputy minister or any individuals.
Each project must be contemplated by the Office of the Council of State and the cabinet before approval.
He also stressed that people can report any individuals or agencies found to be abusing their position in return for financial benefits.
As for corruption at the provincial level, Gen Prayut said probes will be launched against officials as long as the accusers have solid evidence.
Meanwhile, Gen Prawit said yesterday he has not submitted his explanation about his costly watch and diamond ring, said to be worth US$500,000, to the NACC yet.
He also said he had no knowledge of an unconfirmed report which suggested he may claim he inherited the diamond ring from his mother and the luxury watch belonged to a businessman friend who had lent it to him to wear.
Veera Somkwamkid, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Network, also wrote on Facebook yesterday that he had evidence that Gen Prawit had many luxury watches and rings which were not included in the asset declaration submitted to the NACC.
The NACC then should do its job honestly and investigate how Gen Prawit came into possession of such expensive items, whether they were obtained after the coup in 2014 or could be traced back to his role in the Abhisit Vejjajiva government in 2009, he stated.
Mr Abhisit, Democrat Party leader, said he would wait for the result of the investigation. He asked the NACC to do a thorough job, warning its members would be held accountable should it fail to do so.