No. 1 on our list, for the second year in a row, is Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He is worth $30 billion, $5 billion less than last year, as a result of double-digit declines in real estate and stocks owned via the Crown Property Bureau, the state investment vehicle of which he is a trustee. Rising political tensions have also destabilized the country, dampening even the important tourism sector.
Royal wealth derives from inheritances or positions of power. It is often shared with extended families, and many times it represents money controlled by royal families in trust for their nations or territories. For these reasons, none of the 15 royals on this list would qualify for our annual ranking of the world's billionaires, regardless of their net worths.
For instance, Swaziland's King Mswati III is the beneficiary of two funds created by his father in trust for the Swazi nation. During his reign, he has absolute discretion over use of the income, which has allowed him to build palaces for each of his 13 wives and stay at five-star hotels when abroad.
Similarly, we include the assets of Thailand's Crown Property Bureau in King Bhumibol's net worth, as he is a trustee. However, the Thai government disagrees and has publicly stated that the CPB's assets are not part of the king's personal wealth; rather, the CPB owns and manages the assets of the monarchy on behalf of the Thai people.
The irony of the hypocritical royalists is that they will say publically to the foreign press that CPB and its assets don't belong to the monarchy, yet at the same time these same people would never in a million years challenge the notion that the assets don't belong to the monarchy and advocate state confiscation of the wealth in support of the people.
For example, you will never hear a royalist go up to HMTK and say we are going to use CPB assets to build schools or hospitals, because for all intents and purposes it is the king's money and he can do with it whatever he pleases. The choices of what to do with the money are ultimately up to the king, not to the people and their representatives.
And there is not one person who would challenge the notion that the king can do whatever he wants with the assets.
Personally, I don't care one way or the other. But let us cut through the bull.
The royalist propagandists hate stories like this because for the last 60 years they have been promoting the idea that the king is poor. That is the only reason they go into hysterics over this story.
Ajarn Somsak verifies my point on the same topic in the New Mandala thread on HM's wealth.
I would argue further that even if there weren't a legal mechanism to give the king carte blanche powers to do as he wishes with CPB assets, he would have the same power by virtue of lese majeste, implied powers, and cultural deference.