Prawit to be asked to explain, says anti-graft body chief

Deputy PM Prawit Wongsuwon shields his eyes from strong sunlight during a group photo shoot at Government House on Monday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) will ask Gen Prawit Wongsuwon to explain how he got the diamond ring and luxury watch he wore during a new-cabinet group photo session on Monday.

A letter will be sent to the deputy prime minister shortly to clarify the origins of the items, which were not declared when he took office in 2014, NACC chairman Watcharapol Prasarnratchakij said on Thursday.

“We want to know how he acquired them and whether there’s evidence of the purchases or inheritances,” he said.

Since the law in effect today requires politicians to declare assets twice -- when taking and leaving office -- anything acquired in between need not be declared, except under special circumstances like this one, he explained.

“We want to know how he acquired them and whether there’s evidence of the purchases or inheritances,” says Pol Gen Watcharapol. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Pol Gen Watcharapol, a former aide to Gen Prawit before he was named the NACC chairman, said he was not worried as he was performing his duty.

Asked whether he would take part in the probe of his former boss, Pol Gen Watcharapol said the NACC would take action in accordance with the relevant laws, and a commissioner with a conflict of interest could not join the probe.

Gen Prawit earlier said he would not talk to reporters about the two accessories and would give the information only to the NACC.

“I won’t answer you. I’ll explain it to the NACC. I don’t know why I should answer you as you’ll only escalate the issue. Throughout my career, I’ve never been tainted by corruption scandals. Never,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

Gen Prawit’s two accessories, said to be worth millions, caught the eyes of reporters when he raised a hand to shield his eyes from the sun during a photo shoot at Government House on Monday. A group photo is customarily taken when a new cabinet takes office.

After estimating their value, curious observers checked his asset declaration list made available on the NACC website and found the two items had not been declared when he took office three years ago.

The new NACC law, one of the 14 organic laws, is being vetted by a joint panel between the National Legislative Assembly and the constitutional writers who drafted it. It will likely be tabled for final readings and a vote by the end of this month, said Pol Gen Watcharapol, also one of the NLA panel’s members.

One of the key changes said to be introduced by the bill is that the declaration forms would no longer be made public in entirety, with only the NACC given access to the full details. The change has drawn criticisms from anti-corruption activists as a step backwards.

But Pol Gen Watcharapol said on Thursday the panel and the constitutional writers insisted on making the information public so people can take part in the scrutiny.

“The incumbent law allows the NACC to redact sensitive information -- numbers of ID cards, land titles or bank accounts -- if a politician asks for it. The new law will allow us to use discretion -- we can redact such details without being asked,” he explained.


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