Fair trial a huge doubt in investigation into corruption involving Depity PM
WATCHARAPOL’S HISTORY WITH NCPO SCRUTINISED AS ACADEMICS QUESTION INTEGRITY OF INVESTIGATION
THE NATIONAL Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) president should step aside in the investigation of his former boss, General Prawit Wongsuwan, regarding the latter’s possession of an extravagant wristwatch and diamond ring, political academics and critics said yesterday.
While the anti-graft body has agreed to investigate the case involving what appeared to be a multi-million-baht Richard Mille watch worn by the junta’s deputy prime minister, many doubt that Pol General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit will conduct a fair investigation.
Prawit, who did not declare any assets worth more than Bt200,000 when he entered the Cabinet in 2014, is suspected of not only concealing his assets from the NACC but also of “unusual wealth”, as the 72-year-old retired general does not appear to have any business investments.Pol General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit
Watcharapol is a familiar face in the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). Soon after the 2014 coup, the NCPO promoted him from deputy police chief to acting police chief.
A few months later, the junta appointed him to the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) before making him a deputy secretary-general to the prime minister attached to Prawit. He was appointed by the NLA to head the NACC a year later.
The NACC under his navigation has a track record of clearing NCPO members of corruption allegations regarding their involvement with the construction of Rajabhakti Park.
NACC regulations stipulate that any NACC-appointed subcommittee member investigated may be recused if they are considered to have a conflict of interest.
Objections can also be raised if officials have business relations with parties involved in a case.
Aware that he was under scrutiny, Watcharapol said earlier that he would not allow any NACC member with vested interests to investigate the case, but he did not rule out his own participation.
Academics have said they have little faith that the NACC will seriously investigate Prawit given how anti-graft officials were appointed.
Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand, said Watcharapol probably would not investigate Prawit’s case himself, particularly since his connection with Prawit had been scrutinised since he was appointed to the NACC.
However, as NACC president, it would be impossible for Watcharapol to not have a role in the investigation results eventually. “The best he could do might be to use an investigative mechanism and officers transparent enough to be publicly acceptable,” Mana said.Srisuwan Janya
Srisuwan Janya, an activist who filed a petition with the NACC against Prawit, said Watcharapol should temporarily withdraw from overseeing the case and let the rest of the NACC members conduct the process.
Satithorn Thananitichote, an academic at King Prajadhipok’s Institute, said he believe that Watcharapol would still be able to investigate the case if he strictly follows the NACC’s regulations.
“He and Prawit did work together, but it still can’t be said that they retain connections. It is rather a social perception,” Satithorn said. “Officers having shared work experience is rather common. Setting such a high standard might affect other cases as well.”
However, Watcharapol could abstain from a decision when the NACC discusses the case to maintain “good political etiquette”, he said.
Most importantly, he added, the NACC must ensure that the investigative subcommittee works independently without any conflicts of interest.