THAILAND’s Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has found himself the centre of public attention after flashing a luxurious watch and an extravagant diamond ring during a group photo session in front of the Thailand’s parliamentary buildings.
During the photoshoot, Prawit, who is also defence minister, raised his hand to shade his eyes from the sun, revealing a luxurious watch – believed to be a Richard Mille timepiece – and a large diamond ring, believed to be five karats and worth around THB4 million.
The pictures quickly went viral, with netizens on Facebook, Twitter and various online forums questioning how a lifelong military officer could afford such luxuries.
Commentators have been unable to agree which model Richard Mille watch Prawit was wearing, but it’s believed the timepiece would cost somewhere between THB4 million to THB10 million.
Richard Mille timepieces are usually popular with high-profile celebrities such as Ed Sheeran, Jay-Z, and Kanye West – not civil servants like Prawit, whose current monthly salary is around THB115,000.
On Dec 7, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) agreed to ask Prawit to explain how he came to possess these luxurious items, and why they had not been detailed alongside the THB87 million in wealth Prawit had declared to the NACC when he took office.
The NACC has allowed Prawit 30 days to provide evidence of ownership and information on how these assets were acquired.
In what appears to be an effort to bring an end to this unwanted attention, it is understood Prawit will submit an explanation letter to the NACC. However, if unconfirmed local reports are correct, it is unlikely Prawit’s explanations will pacify the online storm.
According to sources close to Prawit, he will claim he inherited the ring from his mother, while the Richard Mille timepiece is a watch he had borrowed from a friend.
These explanations might not sit well with everyone. As one of the NACC’s founding figures, former Anti-Corruption Commission member Preecha Suwannathat explained, claiming the watch was borrowed “just sounds too easy”.
“In that case, he will need to bring a friend to verify his claim. That friend will also need to tell the truth if he doesn’t want to be guilty of providing false information to the NACC. If that friend turns out to be a civil servant, he will need to be investigated also.”
Considering that Prawit and the other generals led the 2014 coup under the pretence of ridding the country of corruption, they will be hoping this embarrassing incident clears up quickly.