BANGKOK — The government has said it is weighing up potential charges over a “fake” article identifying the deputy junta chairman as one of 45 real-life “crazy rich Asians.”
A Defense Ministry spokesman warned Tuesday that those who shared the article, published on Virgin Islands-based financial news website Investing.com, could also face prosecution for violating the Computer Crime Act. He also insisted that Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan isn’t one of Asia’s richest.
“It’s fake news … We don’t have to believe everything that farang people say,” Lt. Gen. Kongcheep Tantravanich said. “There is a lot of fake news nowadays. I’d like the media to deliberate on the information … fact check before reporting, otherwise it will badly affect credibility.”
He also asked for the assistance of media to verify who is behind the article and news website, saying there “must be legal prosecution, both under domestic and international law.”
Despite the title, “Real Life Crazy Rich Asians: The 10 Most Interesting (and Richest) Asians of 2019” lightly profiles 45 apparent Asian billionaires. Besides Prawit, Thai names that made the list include Red Bull’s Chalerm Yoovidhya and CP’s Dhanin Chearavanont.
Although the story was published in 2018, it was only recently widely shared on Thai social media. Unlike most of the other candidates, Prawit’s profile doesn’t state his estimated wealth but focuses heavily on the luxury watch scandal that blew up in 2017.
“In a story dubbed ‘The Watchgate Scandal,’ General Prawit’s extensive collection has come under fire and has sparked corruption rumors throughout Thailand,” read the article. “The story has captivated millions in Thailand and beyond, especially given that the military junta unseated the elected government back in 2014 with the promise to abolish corruption.”
Prawit today declined to comment on the article during a routine press briefing.
Spokesman Kongcheep said Prawit doesn’t possess assets in excess of what he has declared to the national anti-corruption agency.
The agency reported that Prawit’s wealth in 2014 – when he took the position of deputy prime minister and defense minister – was worth about 87 million baht.
In December, the National Anti-Corruption Commission outraged the public after it cleared the 73-year-old retired general of wrongdoings for possessing a collection of watches worth tens of millions of baht, arguing it wasn’t illegal for Prawit to borrow the watches from his friends.