Thai PM’s ‘guardian’ Seksakol quits as vice minister amid lottery controversy
Vice Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office, Seksakol Atthawong, officially announced his resignation from the post today (Monday), effective tomorrow, following the leak of an audio clip of him asking to borrow 15 million Baht in a conversation with another political official, which has raised questions of possible irregularities and abuse of power.
The audio clip was posted on social media on April 3rd by Sittra Biabungkerd, a lawyer from the People’s Lawyer Foundation. The content of the clip is a conversation between Seksakol and an official at the Office of the Secretary-General of the Prime Minister, Jureeporn Sinthuprai, about lottery quota, during which Seksakol asks to borrow money from her to settle a debt with an unnamed person involved in the lottery quota.
In the clip, Seksakol also mentioned having spent 100 million baht in an election, including the 15 million baht in question. An election law caps campaign funds for each candidate at 1.5 million Baht.
Seksakol, also known as “Rambo Isan” and regarded as a devoted and outspoken protector of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, read his statement of resignation at the complaints centre of Government House today.
He told the media that he had already informed the prime minister of his decision, as he maintained that he had not been dismissed and claimed that he volunteered to resign because he did not want the allegations to affect the prime minister’s image.
He also said that his mission to resolve the problem of overpriced lottery tickets is already complete, but he vowed to take legal action against the person who leaked the audio clip.
After the audio clip was leaked, questions intensified over Seksakol’s role in attempts to resolve the problem of overpriced lottery tickets and whether he was involved in any vote buying. Seksakol also led police and the Government Lottery Office in recent raids on two online lottery dealers, Mungkornfa in Nonthaburi province and Kong Salak Plus in Bangkok’s Sukhumvit area, during which millions of lottery tickets were found.
Seksakol later admitted that the male voice heard in the clip is his, but he insisted that he was merely joking with Jureeporn about borrowing money. Separately, Jureeporn also insisted that they were joking, as they had known each other for quite some time.
Opposition party members, however, demanded that the prime minister terminate Seksakol’s role in solving overpriced lottery tickets, to pave way for a transparent investigation into the issue.