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Prawit offers to resign ‘if people don’t want him’

Jan 31. 2018
General Prawit Wongsuwan
General Prawit Wongsuwan
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By The Nation

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THE DEFIANT Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, whose extravagant watch scandal has become a major liability for the junta, yesterday offered his hypothetical resignation, saying he would step down if people did not want him to stay.

“I have served the country for 50 years [as a military officer and minister]. Do you think I have done anything to ruin the country? I want to work for the country. If people don’t want me to, I’m ready to leave my post,” he said.

Prawit, who took power after the 2014 military coup toppled the elected civilian government, made the statement during a luncheon with Defence Ministry officials, Armed Forces officials and journalists at the ministry in a New Year celebration. 

The general has been seen as a lightning rod for Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government as social media is scrutinising his luxury wristwatches.

Prayut, who is Prawit’s junior military classmate, has been pressured to suspend his right-hand man after the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) initiated an investigation of Prawit’s possession of about 25 watches, some of which reportedly cost Bt3 million. 

Prawit declared assets of about Bt83 million to the NACC when he joined Prayut’s government in 2014, but failed to declare the watches he has been seen wearing since late last year. 

In the course of the investigation, he told the anti-graft agency that friends had lent him the watches, although the explanation was widely criticised by regime critics and the general public. 

At present, it appears that the anti-graft body will accept the excuse, which would mean that Prawit was not obligated to declare the watches as required by the law for people who hold positions in government. 

Prawit yesterday claimed credit by saying the Defence Ministry under his supervision had supported the government for almost four years and maintained security and order in the country.

However, the military government has been under fire since some groups of people were accusing it of failing to perform, he said, adding that the government would fight against such opposition. 

Prawit also referred to Prayut’s recent visits to the provinces, which were seen by critics as the premier seeking political support from voters.

“The premier just wants to take care of people. He will not contest the election, so do not play politics with him,” Prawit said.


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