This January, whistle-blower CSI LA alerted us that Deputy PM and Defence Minister Prawit had worn 22 ultra-luxurious watches, allegedly worth up to Bt36 million – about a decade of the deputy PM’s government salaries. Like Caesar’s wife, the deputy PM must be above suspicion, for he controls billions in defence purchases. So where did the watches come from?
National Anti-Corruption Commission director-general Worawit readily granted DPM Prawit four extensions to answer the query. All that Prawit’s now said is that all the watches were borrowed from businessman Pattawat Suksiwong, who’s now dead, and have been returned. After waiting for months, why was Worawit apparently satisfied with such a skimpy answer, which could have been given in January? Worawit is checking with 10 importers to seek the watches’ serial numbers, which would confirm who the true owners are. But Khun Pattawat’s heirs must be easy to contact: why hasn’t Worawit done so and obtained the serial numbers he needs from the watches themselves?
In the case of Red Bull heir Vorayuth, who’s confessed to the hit-and-run killing of a cop with his Ferrari, the authorities similarly gave the suspect extension after extension, letting the matter gradually slip out of the public eye as statute after statute of limitation expired. We should not let history repeat itself.
Worawit may be slow-walking the case, or he may be incompetent. In either instance, since he was appointed to his post by the junta, Worawit should be recused from the case, and an independent, highly competent, and strong-willed person with highest levels of integrity be appointed to head the investigation. In addition, leaving Prawit in his post shows the world that PM Prayut Chan-o-cha cannot clean up his own house. Prayut should move the deputy PM to an inactive post until his name is cleared.
Is there anyone out there who thought that the NACC would be unable to rule on such a clear cut case?
I do take some comfort from this embarrassing situation.
Prayut can no longer really be considered credible in his pronouncements that he is clean and/or a corruption fighter. If he continues to allow Prawit to sit in Cabinet, then it is 100 per cent clear that his words on the subject are pure, unadulterated hypocrisy. And, it also means that as a candidate he is not really credible either. Who could vote for him under these circumstances? Would you believe that he is serious about fighting corruption? If he so clearly disregards all his previous pronouncements to shield his crony from the law, why would anyone believe him going forward?
The second bit of comfort is that this should be the final nail in the credibility of the NACC. Thailand desperately needs an effective corruption-fighting organisation, but the current NACC is clearly not it. It is time to disband the commission, fire the commissioners and start over. The NACC has become simply a political tool of the junta to assassinate its political enemies and shield its allies.