Thai PM under fire over graft allegations against brother

Mr Prayut speaking to media earlier this month about the growth and stability his government had achieved since the coup.
Mr Prayut speaking to media earlier this month about the growth and stability his government had achieved since the coup.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Prayut should enforce laws for everyone, not use them to shield those on his side, says former premier Yingluck

BANGKOK • Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has come under fire after corruption allegations surfaced this month against his brother Preecha Chan-o-cha, who is also a senior army general.

Local media said one of General Preecha's sons won a series of lucrative construction contracts from the Third Army, which he used to command. He insisted the contracts were awarded in a fair tender process and denied any wrongdoing.

Such headlines have stung Mr Prayut, who has defended his coup by saying it was necessary to root out political corruption and end years of instability.

He appeared to distance himself from his brother in comments made yesterday after he returned from New York, addressing the issue in detail for the first time.

"A brother is a brother, it's not the same as me," he said. "He is not stupid. But I do not make a guarantee for him because it is his responsibility."

Yesterday, Thailand's first female prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra told Mr Prayut to investigate his own brother, in an unusually strong broadside against the junta.

NOT HIS BROTHER'S KEEPER

A brother is a brother, it's not the same as me. He is not stupid. But I do not make a guarantee for him because it is his responsibility.

THAI PRIME MINISTER PRAYUT CHAN-O-CHA

She was booted from office shortly before Mr Prayut seized power in May 2014 - the military's second coup in less than a decade and 12th successful power grab since 1932.

Since then, she has been hit with a series of junta-led prosecutions, including a retroactive impeachment, an ongoing criminal negligence trial that could see her jailed for up to a decade and a separate move to claim more than US$1 billion (S$1.4 billion) in civil damages.

The last two cases stem from a popular but financially costly rice subsidy scheme that the Yingluck government pushed for.

"The Prime Minister (Prayut) says that all the legal actions against me are based on the law and are not bullying," she wrote on her Facebook account yesterday.

"I would like the Prime Minister to apply the same logic and justice given to me like he gives justice and protection to his brother and other people who are on his side. Because the laws should be enforced for everyone, not just used only against my side."

It is not the first time that the junta chief's brother has had to contend with negative headlines.

Earlier this year, Gen Preecha admitted to helping another son land a well-paid officer's job in the military. And when the junta ordered senior officials to reveal their wealth as part of a post-coup attempt at transparency, he had US$1.2 million in his bank account, which he said were military assets he was looking after and not his own personal wealth.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2016, with the headline 'Thai PM under fire over graft allegations against brother'. Print Edition | Subscribe