Flashy Prawit risks tainting PM's image, says Abhisit

Flashy Prawit risks tainting PM's image, says Abhisit

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva says Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, with 10 months left to call an election, is undermining his own credibility as a political leader by refusing to step into Gen Prawit's watch scandal.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva says Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, with 10 months left to call an election, is undermining his own credibility as a political leader by refusing to step into Gen Prawit's watch scandal.

The luxury wristwatch scandal embroiling Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon is undermining the credibility of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, says the Democrat leader.

Echoing remarks made by many political observers and the media, Abhisit Vejjajiva said if the issue was not contained, public sentiment would turn against the government.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), which is investigating, has given itself at least another two weeks to wrap up its probe, which observer say could also hurt the government as it will have the effect of dragging out the saga.

Mr Abhisit, meanwhile, said the scandal could have a spillover effect on Gen Prayut and tarnish his reputation as prime minister or hinder his chances of returning after the next election.

Mr Abhisit said while he was prime minister, two of his cabinet members -- former public health minister Witthaya Kaewparadai and former social development and human security minister Witoon Nambutr -- stepped down after being accused of abusing their authority. "I remember Mr Witthaya saying: 'I don't want to be a burden to the government,' '' said Mr Abhisit.

Gen Prawit is under fire after pictures circulated online of him wearing at least 22 pricey watches on various occasions. None of these timepieces were included in his assets declaration to NACC.

Mr Abhisit said that Gen Prawit needs to explain who these watches belong to. "If he has confidence in his explanation, there is nothing to lose in telling the public about it," Mr Abhisit said. What is worrying is the issue has dragged on and could end up taking its toll on the prime minister himself, the Democrat leader said.

Deputy Prime Minister Chatchai Sarikulya declined to comment on a report that people in the military and business circles had jointly invested in an expensive wristwatch scheme, while NACC president Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit said the case has not yet been sent to the commissioners for consideration.

Pol Gen Watcharapol said he was aware Gen Prawit had sent two explanation letters to his office, adding the agency will tread carefully on all aspects related to the case, which is drawing a great deal of public attention.

Referring to a proposal the NACC should seize the luxury watches first for inspection, Pol Gen Watcharapol said those carrying out the probe have full licence to seize assets if they so wish.


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