The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) plans to launch an investigation into Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan's possession of what appears to be an extravagantly luxurious watch, which has not been declared in his assets.
NACC acting secretary-general Worawit Sukboon yesterday said the anti-graft body would start the investigation immediately as it was an issue of public interest.
The NACC, which was appointed by the junta's handpicked legislators, last year cleared suspects over procurement irregularities after a scandal involving the military-run Rajabhakti Royal Park.
Political activist Srisuwan Janya said he also planned to file a petition with the NACC today regarding Prawit's watch, which appeared to be a Richard Mille, which would have cost between Bt4 million and Bt10 million, and was not included in his asset declarations in 2014.
Depending on the results of the investigation, Prawit could be found to have wrongfully concealed assets - and also for possessing irregular wealth, as the 72-year-old retired general has at least Bt87 million in assets despite working only for the military and being unaffiliated with any businesses, Srisuwan said.
Prawit came under fire after a photograph of him shading his eyes from the sun went viral on Monday, with social media users drawing attention to his diamond ring and watch.
The junta's number-two leader yesterday said he would clarify issues related to his possession of the watch to the NACC directly.
"It's no use explaining to the media. I will just take one shot with the NACC," he said. Politicians in Thailand and abroad have fallen into trouble before after being shown wearing expensive timepieces.
In 2013, then-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was criticised for owning a Bt2.5-million watch that was not declared to the NACC. During the investigation, Yingluck said she had sold the watch before entering the political arena - and used the money to buy diamonds. The investigation remains incomplete.
A year later, Indonesia's then-military commander, General Moeldoko, was also spotted wearing high-end watches, including what looked like a Richard Mille RM 011 Felipe Massa Flyback "Black Kite", which would have cost more than Bt3 million. Moeldoko attempted to dispute the criticism by throwing the watch on the floor in front of journalists and saying: "Do you think this is an original?"
Last month, Indonesia's speaker of parliament Setya Novanto, who has been embroiled in several corruption scandals, was also alleged to have owned a Richard Millle watch that would have cost more than Bt4 million.
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, was seen wearing a Bt17-million Richard Mille RM 52-014 timepiece during his wedding ceremony in 2015. The watch was worth about four times his annual income. Peskov insisted that the watch was merely a present from his wife.