Updated: NACC supports Prawit

28 12 2018

Deputy Dictator Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has been found to have no case to answer for his luxury watches and jewelry collection.

This outcome was exactly as expected. No one considered, even for a moment, that the National Anti-Corruption Commission would find against their boss’s boss. No one expected that the NACC would depart from its track record of finding nothing corrupt about the military junta.

Fittingly, it was only yesterday that the Bangkok Post ran an editorial headlined “Who trusts the NACC?” It asks this after Japanese courts found former executives of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems guilty of bribing Thai officials in February 2015. The Post complains that the work of the Japanese justice system:

is a sharp contrast to other investigations in Thailand. Probes into several corruption cases that involved Thai authorities do not seem to be going anywhere, which speaks volumes about the graft agency’s limited ability to detect irregularities or foul play.

Of course, a large number of cases that go to the NACC, especially over the past decade or so of political turmoil have seen a politicized NACC. The great, rich and good (defined by their yellow hue) get lenient treatment while opponents are often rapidly found to have been “corrupt.”

The Post editorial also mentions cases that have gone from quiet to missing. One is the Rolls Royce corruption case, which has disappeared.

Almost a year ago, PPT reminded readers not to forget several things from 2017. This list included:

Corruption. The junta seized power and campaigned against corruption it identified with “politicians.” Yet it was its own corruption that was a theme of 2017. Any number of corruption allegations against the junta and even longer-standing corruption have all been covered up in a cloud of silence. While General Prawit Wongsuwan’s unusual watch collection will continue to cover up in 2018, other cases have disappeared (Rolls Royce, insider trading with Sino-Thai tycoons, military purchases, nepotism, and much more). The junta’s cover ups are likely to deepen in 2018.

The Post editorial also mentioned the notorious luxury watches case:

But what has really made the public lose trust in the graftbusting [sic.] agency is the way it has dragged its feet in the luxury watch controversy involving Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon.

The controversy erupted in December 2017 when the so-called “big brother” of the military was spotted wearing an expensive Richard Mille watch that he had failed to declare in his assets list. Gen Prawit was later found to have donned over 20 flashy time pieces including brands such as Rolex and Patek Philippe over the years. The findings were not from the NACC but from the work of active netizens using a cloud-sourcing technique. Not one of the watches had been declared to the NACC. Instead, the agency extended various deadlines for the embattled DPM to file documents supporting his claim they had been borrowed from a friend.

Giving the Deputy Dictator more than a year to get his luxury watches story sorted out was a great help to the NACC.

It allowed it to conclude that the General “had no intention of making a false assets declaration by omitting 22 luxury watches he had been seen wearing.” Which is a strange conclusion as determining intent is not really what was bothersome. Rather it was his possession of luxury watches and jewelry that was not declared.

The NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon revealed that the agency had given Prawit four chances to “explain” his possession of the watches, with him eventually claimed he had “borrowed” the watches from a rich and conveniently dead Patthawat Suksriwong.

The NACC found that the Deputy Dictator had now “returned them all.” Even if that is true, it hardly seems surprising that Prawit would have done this over more than a year. After all, his story depended on it.

Apparently one watch was missing from the “returned” watches, but the NACC “assumed that Gen Prawit had also borrowed it from Patthawat, given Patthawat’s mentioned generosity to his friends…”. So where is it? The NACC seems to have just ignored this.

We should add that the report is somewhat garbled on numbers of watches, referring to 20, 21 and 22 watches. If it is the NACC that has the numbers wrong when only going to two digits, we doubt it could ever deal with millions and billions.

The super-sleuths at the NACC discovered that “Patthawat had been a rich businessman and collected luxury watches.”

More interestingly, it also found that this very rich businessman “had often offered financial help and lent luxury watches to old friends from Saint Gabriel’s College, including Gen Prawit…”.

How’s that work? How much did Gen Prawit get from the businessman, in addition to 21 or 22 watches “on loan”? When did he get loans? How much? Did he pay interest? Was he in the businessman’s pocket?

The NACC concluded that as “20 luxury watches and a warranty for another watch” were at the dead businessman’s former residence, then “it believed that Gen Prawit had borrowed the 21 watches.”

How thick do they think the Thai public is? Next week the watches could be at Prawit’s residence….

Three of the eight NACC commissioners voted against the decision to clear Prawit, wanting the “NACC to expand its investigation into the matter because they felt the existing information was insufficient…”.

It was, but the whole process seems to have been designed to allow a very reluctant Deputy Dictator to get his story straight and to then get the “evidence” in the right place.

We assume the military junta is pleased that Gen Prawit will remain available to manage the massive military and security force that is deployed to campaign for the devil parties and to disadvantage other parties in the junta’s rigged election.

Update: The Nation has more on the 20-21-22 watches counting problem mentioned above. It reports that “NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon yesterday told a press conference that the agency had found 21 of the 22 watches in question had belonged to Patawat.” That’s not quite true or if it is suggests fudging, as only 20 were located at the rich man’s house. The 21st watch was not found, but a warranty card was found, and that was apparently sufficient for the NACC. “That left one watch whose ownership could not be confirmed, but the NACC believed it may also have belonged to Patawat…”.

The question now would seem to be what kind of “investigation” did the NACC conduct? As far as we can tell, they had written “evidence” from Gen Prawit denying accusations he fudged his assets declaration and some of the watches back where Gen Prawit said they came from, after more than 12 months. Perhaps there’s more, but the NACC seems to have maintained its reputation as an ineffective and politicized puppet agency.


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Corrupt military | Political Prisoners in Thailand

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