Further updated: Watching the watchman

2 06 2020

Gen Prawit Wongsuwan’s “borrowed watch” case before the supine National Anti-Corruption Commission was heard while the agency was headed by one of his cronies. No one was surprised when the NACC dismissed the case.

Seventeen months ago, Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, a member of the Puea Thai Party, wrote to the NACC, asking it “to explain why it did not find Gen Prawit guilty of failing to declare 22 watches he claimed to have borrowed from a friend…”.

He’s now received a reply from Sukij Boonchai, the acting NACC secretary-general:

The letter says the NACC commissioners acknowledged that Pattawat Suksriwong was the owner of the watches and had lent them to Gen Prawit. It also confirmed that Gen Prawit had returned the watches, worth tens of millions of baht, to Pattawat after he used them.

“The borrowing is a ‘loan for use’. While a loan for use is a liability, it is not the type the NAAC requires to be declared in its (asset declaration) form,” Mr Sukit wrote.

The NACC’s definition of liabilities only covers money, not loans for use, in which the assets have been returned to the lenders in their original form (with no money involved), he added.

“Therefore, Gen Prawit is not obliged to declare the borrowed watches as liabilities in his asset declaration form,” he concluded.

Former finance minister, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Thailand, and qualified accountant Thairachai Phuvanatnaranubala has written that the NACC’s “interpretation” of “liabilities” offended “common sense,” noting that the “prevailing interpretation of liabilities is anything of monetary value, not just something where real money is involved.”

He implied that the NACC has concocted something “special” for Gen Prawit.

Some of Prawit’s loot

Meanwhile, law academic Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, a leader of the Progressive Movement, observed that the NACC’s Prawit rule amounted to a “trick” that “would open the door for widespread asset concealment.” He said:

The NACC’s interpretation destroys the checks and balances of politicians and government officials and renders useless the requirement that they declare assets and liabilities…”.

Luxury assets such as accessories, rings, necklaces, watches, sports cars, etc need not be declared anymore. “All you have to do is get a rich friend of yours to say it is their assets and then explain the properties were borrowed from him.”…

“The interpretation of the NACC today has given politicians and officials a new channel to hide their assets.

To protect the heart of the military regime, do we really need to trade it with the checks and balances we have so painstakingly built since 1997?”

Not Prawit’s watches

Usually supportive of rightist regimes, Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of the Anti-Corruption Organisation of Thailand pointedly asked: “Are we adhering to the rule of law or do we simply use it to favour some influential people? ” That’s really a rhetorical question; of course, there’s no rule of law in Thailand, just support for the ruling clique and their supporters.

The regime’s efforts to protect the aged Gen Prawit are likely to go up a gear as he maneuvers his way to the leadership of the junta’s Palang Pracharath Party, giving the military even more control over the party. A couple of days ago:

Eighteen of the 34 members of the executive committee of the main coalition party Palang Pracharath resigned on Monday, paving the way for the election of a new party leader and executive committee in 45 days.

This paves the way for Gen Prawit to take full control of the party, supported by fascists, anti-democrats and crooks like Paiboon Nititawan, Buddhipongse Punnakanta and Thammanat Prompao.

Gen Prawit channeled his inner Sgt Schultz, lying that “he was not involved in the mass resignation of executives” from his party where he’s officially “chief strategist.” He added: “I don’t know…. I’m not involved with them.”

Truly, these dolts seem to “think” the country is composed of people dumber than they are. Everyone in the country seems to believe that this is nothing more than a military power grab. Party members have already declared that Gen Prawit will be nominated for the “vacant” position.

It actually seems that this was a “deal” done when the party was patched together and to minimally camouflage its military base. As MP for Bangkok Sira Jenjaka explained:

… current party leader and Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana, and secretary-general Sontirat Sontijirawong, who is also the Energy Minister, will no longer have the power to run the party’s affairs.

Asked what was behind “the changing of the guard”, Mr Sira said that this was a deal when the party was formed that the current executive committee members were given one year to work, and their performance would then be assessed.

“They now must admit that it is time for a change,” Mr Sira said.

A cabinet reshuffle will follow and will see a reallocation of lucrative positions as payback for support.

Update 1: Thai Enquirer quotes Paiboon Nititawan on one of the reasons he wants Gen Prawit at the helm of the junta party. He says Prawit “has a lot of influence and prestige and is very generous…”. The generosity of a man who had to “borrow” watches from a wealthy friend raises the question of who funds Prawit’s generosity? There may be several sources. One is the funds that corruption in government provides. Another is the taxpayer funds. And, perhaps, the tycoons who get all kinds of benefits send loot his way. As an example of favors provided, think of the most recent benefit, as land and building taxes are slashed. Who benefits? Not smallholder farmers. Not single home owners. Nope. The beneficiaries are the wealthy:

… the cuts mainly benefit corporate owners of farmland, people who can afford more than one house, as well as owners of vacant land, or commercial/industrial properties.

Update 2: The Bangkok Post appears to confirm that the “generosity” of Gen Prawit has to do with “control the Finance Ministry which is to oversee a 1-trillion-baht Covid-19 relief plan…”. All that loot! It is reported that:

Of the 1 trillion baht, 600 billion is for financial aid and health-related plans for those whose jobs and businesses have been hit by the pandemic. The remaining 400 billion is for economic and social rehabilitation via projects aimed at creating jobs, strengthening communities and building infrastructure.

From the 400-billion-baht portion, the 273 government MPs will receive 80 million baht each while the 207 opposition MPs will receive 40 million baht each. There will still be almost 300 billion baht left over and this is why the finance minister post is being eyed by the PPRP factions….

One of the factions maneuvering for control of Finance is that led by convicted heroin smuggler and serial liar Thammanat.


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