Prawit must resign: Pridiyathorn
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon must resign before his reputation is ruined by the ongoing saga over his collection of luxury wristwatches, former deputy prime minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula said Monday.
"With the situation being this tense, if I were him, I'd rather resign", MR Pridiyathorn said in an interview with an investigative current affairs programme on Spring News called Jo Luek Thua Thai Inside Thailand.
Gen Prawit is facing an investigation by the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) after reports emerged online that he appeared to own 25 expensive watches which were not among his declared assets.
- Commentary by Atiya: Is 'the Rolex minister' worth saving?
The popular Thai-language CSI LA page has published photos showing the regime's No.2 man wearing 25 timepieces worth 39.5 million baht (US$1.24 million).
This prompted critics to question how he was able to afford them on the salary of a military man, and why he failed to list them among his declared assets.
Gen Prawit countered by saying they belonged to friends of his and have since been returned. In a rare explosion of bluster he recently threatened to resign from the cabinet if the NACC finds him guilty of wrongdoing.
MR Pridiyathorn said if a majority of the public finds the scandal unacceptable, Gen Prawit would face a bumpy road ahead that could leave his reputation in tatters.
"I've already had someone deliver my message to him -- live a happy life, live well and protect your reputation, which is still good," said MR Pridiyathorn.
Gen Prawit has not yet been charged with any form of misconduct or corruption. If the NACC finds him guilty of not declaring his assets, that would not automatically be treated as corruption but rather as a violation of the regulations pertaining to assets held by political office holders.
"But if he stays on and the people lose trust in him, his reputation will be irrevocably damaged," MR Pridiyathorn said.
Some reports claim businessman Pattawat Suksriwong, who died last year, would often lend the deputy prime minister watches, quoting a former military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.
MR Pridiyathorn enjoyed close ties with Mr Pattawat as the two were friends and business partners. But he said he never heard any mention of the watch-lending from the deceased.
Gen Prawit and Pattawat were close friends as they attended classes together at Saint Gabriel's College, according to Gen Noppadol Inthapanya, a member of the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA).
Mr Pattawat was a very wealthy man who frequently let Gen Prawit borrow his latest watches for several months at a time, Gen Noppadol claimed.
The two men were part of an elite circle of friends who like to swap watches temporarily, he said.
"Even I borrowed one from Mr Pattawat, gave it back to him after two months and got a new one from him on loan," he said. "Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha also knew Mr Pattawat well."
A source close to Gen Prawit said the scandal has put him under immense pressure and caused him to seek medical attention.