BANGKOK -Defence Ministry’s spokesman Lt-Gen Kongcheep Tantrawanich on Monday that Thailand’s “Rolex General” Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan is not going to step down, but will carry on with his responsibility and duty to ensure national security and public safety.
Commenting on the criticism and calls for General Prawit to resign over the expensive wristwatch scandal, Lt-Gen Kongcheep said the criticism and calls for his resignation constituted expression of opinions in a democratic society that all parties concerned should respect and listen with impartiality and should consider constructively.
Reminding the people of the bitter experiences they have gone through and the common lesson they have learned, the spokesman said that tolerance and reasoning would be the two elements which would enable the people to overcome their difficulties.
He said that General Prawit remains physically and mentally strong, determined and dedicated to perform his duty to make sure that the public is safe and national security intact.
He also added that the three armed forces remain united as one to ensure national security and to stand alongside the people.
General Prawit will be in Singapore today (Monday) until Wednesday to attend the Asean Defence Ministers’ meeting. He is due back on Wednesday to meet with Joseph Dunford Jr., Chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff.
On Saturday, Thai students with huge banners and caricature puppets delivered the latest satirical swipe at the junta’s number two – known as the “Rolex General” for his collection of undeclared luxury watches.
The watch scandal has seized a kingdom growing weary of military rule and sparked a spate of creative protests that are challenging the junta’s stranglehold on dissent.
The 72-year-old general has been the a target of public ire ever a since photo circulated of him in December lifting a hand to block his eyes from the sun, revealing a diamond ring and a pricey Richard Mille watch.
Since then, online sleuths have unearthed photos of the junta bigwig wearing some 25 luxury timepieces that he allegedly failed to list when declaring his assets.
In recent weeks, a growing number of activists have taken to the streets to defy a junta ban on protests and call for elections. The generals promised a swift return to democracy after seizing power in 2014 but have repeatedly delayed poll dates.
The regime hit back by filing charges against dozens of activists this week over their protests.
But that has not stopped the flurry of internet memes and other sly expressions of dissent, including graffiti of Prawit’s face framed by an alarm clock.
The street art sat untouched on a Bangkok wall for four days before being whitewashed by police, according to its creator, who goes by “Headache Stencil”.