BANGKOK – Thailand’s Anti-Graft seekers have lambasted the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) for its unusually slow investigation into the 22 luxury watches and a diamond ring related to Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwon.
Anti-Graft Critics are losing faith in the NACC which, after several previous postponements, said on Thursday that it still needed more time to authenticate ownership of the items.
The NACC is presided over by Pol General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit, who is a close friend and serve as a deputy secretary-general to the prime minister attached to Gen. Prawit, on Jan 23 Gen. Watcharapol made the decision to stay away from the investigation of the expensive wristwatch saga from his probe team.
Gen Prawit has said that the watches he was spotted wearing belonged to a now deceased friend, while the diamond ring belonged to his father.
Social media has been full of heated comments. The most vitriolic one came from child rights advocate Thicha Nanakorn. On her Facebook, Ms Thicha, who had led a campaign to expel Gen Prawit from the government, wrote: “Why don’t we expel the NACC together?”
Ms Thicha added that she could no longer place any trust in the commissioners as they have not been able to do the job given to them by the charter.
A former member of now-dissolved National Reform Council, Ms Thicha ran an online campaign that saw more than 80,000 people calling on Gen Prawit to resign.
Consumer advocate and former senator, Rosana Tositrakul, hit out at the credibility of the NACC. On her social media site, Ms Rosana said the NACC’s 20 years of credibility had “gone bankrupt”.
Politicians also joined the chorus. Plodprasop Suraswadi, former deputy prime minister during the Yingluck Shinawatra administration questioned whether the NACC has been “smart, or stupid” in dealing with the case.
“People are questioning whether the NACC is buying time,” former finance minister Thirachai Phuvanatnaranubala wrote on his Facebook.
Mr Thirachai suggested the information in the case had not changed and attacked the NACC for failing to reach a conclusion. “Have the NACC seized all 22 watches?” he asked.
The investigation into Gen Prawit has also dragged on for four months and this is the fourth time that the graft watchdog has extended the timeframe.
NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon said on Thursday the NACC agreed to extend its investigation as the commissioners are currently busy on other assignments.
Additonally, the NACC, said Mr Worawit, needs more time to trace the serial numbers of the 22 wristwatches to establish exactly where and when they were bought.
Gen Prawit was seen sporting the watches, some of which are worth over a million baht, and the ring in various photos, which raised questions as to why he, as a holder of a political position, had not included them in asset declarations to the NACC, which are required under the law.
The businessman whom Gen Prawit alleges lent him the timepieces is widely believed to be the late Pattawat Suksingwong, who was known to be a close friend of his since they were classmates at St Gabriel’s College.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon yesterday told reporters he has nothing more to tell the NACC.
“I’ve already clarified the issue with the NACC. It’s now the NACC’s job,” he said.