BANGKOK — Ekachai Hongkangwan may have no love for the junta deputy junta chairman currently besieged by a scandal involving his collection of luxury watches, but the activist said Thursday that he sympathized with the general as a fellow watch lover.
That was the rationale Ekachai gave for attempting to block a junta motorcade Wednesday morning: to present Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan with a new watch as a New Year’s gift. For his latest stunt, Ekachai was detained by police, though the activist said he was told no charges would be filed.
“Right now Prawit is facing a big backlash. He likes wearing watches, I understand his feeling,” Ekachai said by phone from the Thewet Intersection police box, where he was being held. “Now that his watches have become big news, he has stopped wearing them. It feels like something is missing.”
He continued, “If he wears [the expensive watches], it would be big news. I sympathize with him, so I wanted to give him a cheap watch. If he wears my cheap watch, no one would care.”
His would-be late Christmas present? A Seiko wristwatch worth less than 3,000 baht.
Ekachai, a former lese majeste convict who’s had numerous run-ins with law enforcement for his political stunts, said he learned that Prawit and his boss, junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha, were to visit former premier and influential military elder Gen. Prem Tinsulanonda at his residence today, so he went there to await their entourage.
Once he spotted the motorcade he believed carrying Prawit and Prayuth, Ekachai said he jumped in front of the oncoming cars, drawing an immediate police response. He was being held at the police box near Gen. Prem’s residence as of press time.
”They carried me away right there and then,” Ekachai said. “They dragged me away, basically.”
Samsen Police Station chief Preecha Kongkaew denied any knowledge of Ekachai’s arrest.
He served nearly three years on a lese majeste conviction and has previously been arrested for petitioning the government to look for the missing 1932 revolution plaque, attempting to restore the plaque and other activities. In October, he was whisked out of Bangkok by security forces after publicly vowing to wear red on the day King Rama IX was cremated.
Prawit, the 72-year-old junta strongman, has been under pressure to explain how he acquired a great number of multi-million baht watches and why he did not declare them among his mandatory asset disclosures as required by anti-graft law.
Since his first watch was spotted during a Cabinet photoshoot on Dec. 4, a review of photos crowd-sourced online has revealed what appear to be at least nine other ultra-luxury watches worn by Prawit.
As late as Tuesday, Gen. Prawit has steadfastly refused to answer questions about the collection.
“Oy!” he grunted to reporters who shot questions at the Defense Ministry and walked away.
Ekachai, the activist, said he was willing to give up his own Seiko for Prawit. Ekachai said he bought it 10 years ago for under 3,000 baht – qualifying it as a gift under a law that bans political office holders from receiving presents valued at over 3,000 baht.
He said police told him they would not charge him with any crime.