Thailand: Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan is under the scanner due to luxury watches. Some media reports claim that the collective worth of the luxury watches he wore might well be over US$1 million.
Celebrated author Charles Dickens wrote in his famous work, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Well, something of this sort happened with Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan during a photo clicks by journalists in December. During the photo op, Prawit raised his hand to shield his eyes from the sun and reporters noticed his gleaming watch – Richard Mille, a luxury Swiss brand. A quick records check showed that he had never declared the Richard Mille timepiece on his assets list. But this is not all. Reportedly, an Internet scouring of his pics showed that he was enjoying extremely good times, at least going by his wrist watches. His luxury watch count rocketed from 1 to 5 to 12 and it currently stands at 25 including brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe. Some media reports claim that their collective worth might well be over US$1 million.
This raised doubts on Prawit’s honesty and the nation started asking questions. For weeks, Prawit was in denial and refused to give explanation. However, recently, replying to the accusations, he said, “I have friends and they gave them to me… No, they didn’t buy them for me; they just let me wear them. That’s all,” while briefing media persons. All the watches have since been returned to their owners, he said. The matter is now with the National Anti-corruption Commission. Worawit Sukboon, a spokesman for the anti-graft body, has called on the media to “wait for all the facts.”
“If the watches belong to others and not him, he doesn’t have to declare them under the law. If the watches are his, we have to find out when he got them, is it before he took up his post (as deputy prime minister) or after?” NACC deputy secretary-general Worawit Sukboon told reporters. Notably, General Prawit Wongsuwan – a career military man, receives only a modest salary.
The stir has become the fodder for the opponents of the ruling party. “Do you really think Thai people would believe your story?” former Senator Rosana Tositrakul said while speaking to reporters. “You gave such an answer because you don’t think the Thai public can do anything to you,” she added. The matter is still under probe.