Poll supporting Thailand's General Prawit Wongsuwan exposed, as pressure mounts on junta

Poll supporting Thailand's General Prawit Wongsuwan exposed, as pressure mounts on junta

Poll supporting Thailand's General Prawit Wongsuwan exposed, as pressure mounts on junta

Updated 6 February 2018, 23:35 AEDT

An online poll supposedly supporting Thailand's embattled deputy Prime Minister has been exposed as mostly fake, in the latest embarrassing blow to the country's military government.

Key points:

  • Change.org poll attracted around 16,000 votes for deputy PM
  • Without fake votes support for General Prawit now sits at around 500
  • General Prawit is under investigation for his 25 luxury watches, worth $1.5m

General Prawit Wongsuwan is under growing pressure to resign after revelations he wore at least 25 luxury watches in public, worth a total of $1.5 million.

On Sunday, a user calling themselves "Invisible Hands" started a poll on change.org offering support for the deputy PM, rapidly attracted around 16,000 votes.

However, suspicions were aroused when prominent anti-coup activists found their names and email addresses had been used to support General Prawit, without their knowledge.

"The suspicious behaviours include many signatories being generated by the same computer IP, or being signed too quick to be done by one individual," said Warisara Sornpet, director of Change.org in Thailand.

"We have detected that there was an intention to boost the signatories which could be illegal behaviour," said Mr Warisara, as quoted by Prachatai English.

When the fake votes were removed, support for General Prawit fell from 16,000 to 50, but has since increased to around 500, as of Tuesday.

The management of change.org did not comment on who manipulated the poll or whether the IP address was linked to the military.

By contrast, a separate poll on change.org that demands Prawit Wongsuwan resign has attracted more than 65,000 votes.

Promise to resign carefully monitored

Prawit Wongsuwan was among the military leaders who ousted the elected government in 2014, promising to stabilise Thailand's turbulent political landscape and battle corruption.

None of the high-end watches were listed on General Prawit's asset declaration.

As well as being deputy PM, he is also Minister of Defence and seen as a crucial powerbroker in the murky world of Thai politics.

The polls have been big news in Thailand because General Prawit offered to resign if he no longer had the support of the public.

"If people don't want me to, I'm ready to leave my post," he said last week, according to The Nation newspaper.

So far, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha is standing by General Prawit.

An investigation is underway by the National Anti-Corruption Commission into the watch scandal, but the body is led by another junta-appointed soldier who once worked directly for Prawit Wongsuwan.

Since taking power in the 2014 coup, the junta has postponed elections every year, with a planned November ballot almost certain to be put back to 2019.