Friday, March 2, 2007

Asian Sentinel: Deconstructing the Crown Property Bureau

Thailand's Royal Wealth

Our Correspondent
02 March 2007


How Thailand’s Royals Manage to Own All the Good Stuff

This popular night market was used as a ploy to change zoning regulations
A man, let’s call him Somchai, lives in a prime location in central Bangkok. Now in his sixties, Somchai designed and built his house himself nearly 30 years ago. He doesn’t own the land, but he only pays about 400 baht ($11) in rent to his landlord.

So why does he now wish he lived somewhere else?

“If I could do it all over, I wouldn’t build on this land,” he told Asia Sentinel. “There is no security. I can get kicked off at any time.”

But he won’t go voluntarily. Somchai’s land, you see, is owned by the King.

In fact, most of Bangkok’s best real estate is owned by Thailand’s royal family through the Crown Property Bureau (CBP), which manages the monarchy’s land holdings. Somchai was able to build the house by bribing bureau officials a few decades ago. Now if he sells it, 75 percent of the money will go to the CPB, giving Somchai—who is retired with little savings—no incentive to leave.

“The people around here all worry that they might be forced out, but we are too scared to talk about it,” he said.

That fear of upsetting the monarchy goes a long way to explain why so little has been written about the Crown Property Bureau. King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s golden robe shields the bureau from public criticism, allowing it to oversee a modern form of feudalism with little scrutiny.

More than any institution over the past hundred years, the CPB has shaped Bangkok and in recent years it has only picked up speed. Since recovering from huge debts incurred during the 1997 financial crisis, the CPB has aggressively sought to boost profits from its prime Bangkok land plots, often pushing out poorer shop owners and tenants that have lived on the land for generations.

The ceaseless development of huge malls, hotels and office buildings is rarely debated as the bureau avoids public criticism. When its officials do speak, they simply tout the king’s theory of a sufficiency economy, which preaches moderation, reasonableness and immunity. As the bureau has found, however, the best immunity from an economic downturn is to make sure its birthright properties are yielding large amounts of cash.

part 1 continued

Part 2

But, of course, while the Holy of Holies is a multi-billionaire, he and his wealthy and corrupt Thai praetorian guard are telling the peasants to live lives of self-sufficiency and destitution, and actually have the audacity to lecture the masses on morality, integrity and their addiction to consumerism.

Of course, the Thai academy and the Thai media goose step behind this hypocrisy.

This is a very important article.

If anybody has noticed yet, there is a pattern to all the stories I blog about. And I have only hit the tip of the iceberg.

There is a deliberate attempt by those in Thailand with wealth and power--and it doesn't matter which camp they are in, Thaksin or royalist, because their intent is all the same--to keep the Thai masses poor, ignorant, indebted, powerless and politically cowed. And all these Thai elites have to do is ramp up right-wing nationalism or cover their corruption behind lese majestie laws to sustain their power. The Thai masses, like the ignorant plebes of the Roman empire, need nothing but bread (rice) and circuses (entertainment and hocus pocus) to keep them distracted from the truth of their own oppression.

The right-wing elite and their backers in the media and academy blame the farang, blame the Singaporeans, feed the masses game shows and soap operas, and rob the state and the people for all their worth while lecturing them about the virtues of sufficiency theory, which tells the masses to be just contented with their poverty and powerlessness.

After all, isn't that what the Buddha teaches? That we are just victims of fate, because of our karma. Just follow orders, meekly smile at the master's feet, don't think and become resigned to whatever the universe has ordained for us.

And so the Thai world turns.

1 comment:

hobby said...

It's not only the Thai word that's turning that way - feeding the masses on games shows, reality tv, celebrity gossip etc while the real power brokers get on with business is the way of the world.