Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin says he will not resign following his comments on Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon’s luxury watches scandal at Government House on Tuesday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

Education Minister Teerakiat Jareonsettasin says he will not resign following his comments on Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon’s luxury watches scandal.

Dr Teerakiat told reporters on Tuesday he had met Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Gen Prawit and to “clear the air”.

“I apologised to Gen Prawit for my bad manners. We’ll work smoothly together from now on,” he said.

He added he did not resign and would continue to help Gen Prayut. “I still have every confidence in him. I’ll stay until the prime minister thinks I’m not suitable.”  

Last week, Dr Teerakiat was in England where he met Thai students and businessmen on Friday.

He told them when they finished their studies and returned to Thailand, they should bear in mind that law enforcement and conscience of politicians in Thailand were very different. Rule of law doesn’t really exist, he said.

He cited as an example Michael Bates, a member of the House of Lords who quit his government post after showing up late to answer questions. Prime Minister Theresa May later rejected his resignation.

“But in Thailand, having 25 watches is okay,” he said.

After the 15-minute meeting, Dr Teerakiat told BBC Thai: “There’s no way [this will happen in Thailand]. We are not trained from a young age to be ashamed. It will never happen. Thick-skinned is more like it here. As for the timepieces, if it was me, I would resign after being exposed about the first watch. People dare not comment. What do they fear? Will they fire me if I say so?” he said.

His comments were widely shared in social media, raising the question whether he would resign or be fired. 

Dr Teerakiat said on Tuesday the clip on BBC website showed him sitting during the talk but the voice-over came from a conversation he later had with a BBC Thai reporter.

“I didn’t  know I was on record so I don’t count it as an official interview. I admit that it’s not the best manners to mention a cabinet minister and I already apologised,” he said.

After returning to Bangkok on Tuesday, he went to meet Gen Prayut and Gen Prawit at Government House but did not attend the weekly cabinet meeting in the afternoon. 

Also on Tuesday, Ruangkrai Leekijwattana, a former Pheu Thai member and senator, said he would send Dr Teerakiat a letter asking him to consider resigning.

According to his asset disclosure to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, the psychiatrist held 5,000 Siam Cement Plc shares (SCC), worth 2.4 million baht based on the closing price on Tuesday.

The Constitutional Court ruled in 2010 that SCC shares were “concession shares” since the company operated on state concessions. The 2017 constitution prohibits a cabinet minister who has such shares from taking the position, Mr Ruangkrai said.

NACC spokesman Worawit Sukboon said on Tuesday the NACC would consider the complaint and look into facts before deciding whether to set up a panel to handle the investigation.

News Reporter

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