Friday, December 7, 2007

Asia Sentinel on the King's Wealth

New look at Thai royal riches

Daniel Ten Kate

Asia Sentinel


Now a new academic article in a special edition of the Journal of Contemporary Asia says those figures significantly underestimate the palace’s wealth. Porphant Ouyyanont, an economist at Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University near Bangkok, calculates the CPB’s worth in 2005 at 1.123 trillion baht, or about $33 billion at today’s exchange rates.

In Porphant’s analysis, which is easily one of the most authoritative accounts ever written about an entity that has received little attention over the years, the number jumps so much because he attempts to calculate the value of the bureau’s extensive landholdings, a process he admits has “a large margin of error.”


Historical evidence suggests the land is heavily concentrated in the Central Business District and other high-yielding areas of town. From this assumption, Porphant used Bangkok land prices published by private consulting firm Agency of Real Estate Affairs to roughly estimate the land prices. This process is “more likely to underestimate than overestimate” the CPB’s landholdings, he writes, while adding that the estimate “should be taken as a rough order of magnitude” rather than an exact figure.

With a worth of at least $30 billion plus, Thailand’s royal family would easily surpass the world’s other wealthy royals. According to Forbes, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is now the world’s richest royal with an estimated worth of $22 billion.

$33 billion isn't chump change. When I read this, it makes me sad. Just a tenth of this wealth could do a lot of good for Thailand, like develop an AIDS vaccine, or build a world-class university, invest in research for alternative fuel, promote environmental awareness, and many other non-political activities.

The king is almost in the same class as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, both of whom have committed billions of dollars to helping people all over the planet. Plus, they pay taxes and have created millions of jobs.

The King, on the other hand, hides and hordes his wealth and doesn't pay tax.


Anonymous said...

CPB assets are "state" assets by law Fonzi, or haven't you heard.
My only quarrel with CPB is that they pay almost no taxes on their holdings and assets . . . making for unfair competition.

Jotman said...

Wikipedia has a decent summary of the HMK's finances -- you read the list of assets listed there and it's hard to imagine how he could only be worth $5 billion. Forutnately, HMK is pure and virtuous. But such a concentration of wealth and power seems likely to bring out the worst in other, lesser mortals. Yet another reason to dread succession!