Huge majority want Prawit gone
THE NUMBER of people who say in online polls that they want Deputy PM General Prawit Wongsuwan to resign over the watch scandal continues to surge.
Almost as soon as Prawit commented on Wednesday that he would step down if people did not want him, several sites – including the Teenee Thai PBS news programme on public broadcasting channel Thai PBS – launched online polls asking people to cast votes on whether Prawit should stay or go.
Yesterday, the third day of polling, saw a surge in the number of people calling for Prawit to resign, with some polls scoring almost 190,000 votes. Teenee Thai PBS Facebook Page asked people to weigh in during the 24 hours, from the evening of January 31 through February 1, and learned that 184,000 people, or 96 per cent out of 192,000 participants, voted for Prawit to leave office. Another 8,500 (4 per cent) wanted him to stay. Child-rights activist Thicha Nanakorn started a petition on Change.org, calling on Prawit to resign, with 50,000 people signing up to support her campaign as of press time yesterday.
The CSI LA Facebook page, which exposed to the public the photos of 25 luxury watches worn by Prawit, saw 7,815, or 55 per cent of 14,326 people vote for Prawit to quit.
The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), meanwhile, expects to finish summoning witnesses in relation to the case by February, said NACC president Pol General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit. Depending on the findings, the NACC could set up an official panel to investigate the case or seek more evidence or witnesses. The NACC, he said, cannot discuss the issue at this point. Pol General Watcharapol said the recent announcement by Prawit had nothing to do with the NACC’s work as it is political.
The NACC would stick to its work procedures and if Prawit resigned it would not affect the NACC’s probe in any way, Watcharapol said. Prawit’s watch controversy has been seen a problem for Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government as social media has closely scrutinised his approximately 25 luxury wristwatches. Following the scrutiny, and the filing of complaints, the NACC initiated an investigation of Prawit’s luxury 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. The controversy began when Prawit was first spotted wearing what appeared to be a silver and black Richard Mille watch and diamond ring during a December 4 group photo with the new Cabinet at Government House.
His possession of other luxury watches has been exposed since. Meanwhile, more demonstrations emerged against the junta following the Prawit watch scandal. The protesters were taken to the police station immediately afterwards. A group of four unidentified men took to the skywalk over the Victory Movement on Friday, holding banners critical of Prawit and the regime. The activists all wore comic masks resembling Prawit with the message “Get Out”. They demanded that Prawit honour his word and resign after online polls suggested he should quit.