Tue, Feb 06, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Petition calls for Thai official to quit

TIME TO RESIGN:The Thai deputy prime minister is under fire for allegedly having 25 undeclared luxury watches, which he says were given to him by friends

Reuters, BANGKOK

Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan shields his eyes from the sun at Government House in Bangkok on Dec. 4 last year.

Photo: Reuters

A petition calling for the resignation of Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan yesterday attracted thousands of signatures, heaping pressure on the junta’s second-in-command to step aside amid a scandal over luxury watches and undeclared assets.

The scandal has revealed growing signs of disgruntlement among the Thai public, and added to uncertainty over whether the junta will call an election later this year that is supposed to move the nation back toward democracy.

The National Anti-Corruption Commission placed Prawit, 72, a former army chief who is also minister of defense, under investigation after his appearance in a photograph in December last year wearing a diamond ring and a luxury watch sparked an avalanche of criticism on social media.

Netizens have since identified 25 expensive luxury watches that the former general has worn, but not declared to the anti-graft body.

Prawit has said that he borrowed the timepieces from friends, but would resign if that was the public’s wish.

According to the anti-corruption act, all political office holders must disclose all of their assets.

A Change.org petition calling for Prawit’s resignation had more than 61,200 signatures as of yesterday.

The minister was attending a defense conference in Singapore and a spokesman said he was in “good health,” without specifically addressing the watch issue.

“I would like to confirm that General Prawit Wongsuwan, deputy prime minister and defense minister ... is in good health and is ready to dedicate himself to looking after the country’s security,” Thai Ministry of Defense spokesman Kongcheep Tantrawanich told reporters.

The scandal is a sore point for the junta, whose promise to rid politics of corruption was central to its premise for staging a 2014 coup.

Signs of growing impatience with the junta has been manifest in a steady stream of protests calling for a quick return to democracy and in defiance of a junta crackdown on freedom of assembly.

On Saturday, students at a soccer match wheeled out parade floats poking fun at Prawit, while a Bangkok street artist who depicted Prawit’s face in an alarm clock said on Facebook that he was facing police intimidation.

The commission has said it would conclude its probe this month.

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