Regime critics slam decision in Prawit watches case

The day was Dec 4, 2017 when the new cabinet ministers gathered for a group photo. The sparkle from Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon’s large diamond ring caught the attention of reporters and photographers there for the occasion. As Gen Prawit raised his hand to shield his eyes from the sun, he unwittingly exposed the ring and a luxury Richard Mille watch. The photographers lost no time in getting a record of the two items, which prompted public curiosity over their ownership - and a search that uncovered 22 other luxury watches on his wrist at one time or other. (File photo by Chanat Katanyu)

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has set a precedent for excuses in future asset-concealment cases by clearing Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon in the luxury watches scandal, spokesmen for the Pheu Thai and Thai Raksa Chart parties said on Friday.

Watanarak Suranatyut, deputy spokesman for Pheu Thai, said his party questioned the NACC's resolution announced on Thursday and would like to know why the commission believed all the expensive watches belonged to Gen Prawit's deceased friend Patthawat Suksriwong.

Mr Watanarak said Pheu Thai was suspicious about why someone would allow the loan of so many watches, worth about 100 million baht, why they had been lent and why their return had not been demanded.

Patthawat, the former owner of the telecommunications company Com-Link, died in February last year. Gen Prawit was first spotted wearing a luxury watch in December last year.

"The resolution of the NACC triggers doubts among Thai people. Can anyone else also escape prosecution by making such an excuse as a loan?" the Pheu Thai deputy spokesman said.

"Watches are personal belongings. Is it possible for so many friends to borrow them? People have different sized wrists," Mr Watanarak said.

He demanded the NACC show evidence of possession of the luxury watches, saying sellers of such expensive products should register their owners.

Khattiya Sawasidipol, deputy spokesperson of Thai Raksa Chart, also said the NACC's resolution would allow people suspected of assets concealment to cite being on loan as an excuse.

The NACC investigation and decision in the case raised doubts about its credibility, he said.

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