By JITRAPORN SENAWONG
PRESSURE is building on the junta government and Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, although the defence minister had until recently seemed secure in office despite the ongoing scandal over photographs of him wearing opulent wristwatches.
A former military officer, however, is backing Prawit’s account of the origins of the watches that many people took as a poor joke – that the watches previously belonged to a friend who had subsequently died.
Former deputy prime minister MR Pridiyathorn Devakula said yesterday that if he faced similar circumstances, he would have already resigned. “If we do something wrong, we have to show spirit,” he said.
He also referred to General Prem Tinsulanonda’s regime, when the country was also not under democratic rule. As the prime minister at the time, Prem took swift action against misbehaving ministers to set a good example, he said.
Pridiyathorn added that he believed Prawit would resign soon because of the mounting pressure.
However, any outcome would also depend on Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha, he said.
A former military officer speaking on condition of anonymity named Pattawat Suksriwong as Prawit’s friend who had lent him the watches. Some of the luxury watches Prawit was seen wearing previously belonged to the late businessman, who passed away last year, the source said.
“Pattawat collected luxury watches. He had a collection of hundreds of them,” the source said. “He lent them to his close friends and Prawit is one of those friends. Their friends who went to the St Gabriel School know this.”
The source said that Pridi-yathorn, also a St Gabriel alumnus, was also aware of the story.
However, the source said he did not know when the timepieces were lent to Prawit. It would not be illegal but still it was important that Prawit explained the issue to the public, the retired general said.
However, Pridiyathorn yesterday denied any knowledge of the loans or the watch collections of Pattawat.
“You have to ask his children. I don’t have that deep [level] of information,” he said.
Pridiyathorn also laughed in response to a question of whether he had also been lent a watch and said that he would never take the offer, adding that he would also be in trouble if he had.
Prawit is facing fierce criticism after being photographed wearing many high-end timepieces on different occasions.
The public is continuing to question how a military officer making less than Bt1 million a year could possibly have afforded the luxury items.
The government’s inaction and Prawit’s account that the watches had been lent to him by a late friend continued to draw questions and scepticism, including from the international media.