Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bhumibol's Billions


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.


Anonymous said...

incidentally, the amount of the assets mentioned by Forbes - $30bln - is the same as the amount recently mentioned in media (quoted was Dr. Narongchai Arakansee as I recall) as the amount of Thailand's foreign reserve investments. so, I mean - it is as big as whole country's assets.

just an observation.

Anonymous said...

'antipad' is clueless on the matter but would continue to bs . . . again. Thailand's 'whole country assets' could NOT only be $30 billion . . .

What are you agitating for Fonzi? Surely you are not advocating for open revolt to wrest away the CPB assets and for what? To redistribute it to the poor?

Surely you have more intelligence than that Fonzi. (Should the Brits of the Dutch confiscate their Queen's assets too?)

Unknown said...

I am sure it will warm the hearts of all Isaan farmers, that the inventor of sufficency economy 'theory' at least has sufficient.


Fonzi said...


I am not certain what the story is with the Crown assets in the UK.

I think by statute, they are the state's assets, she gets paid by the government, and then she has her own personal and real property that are separate. She is taxed on her personal and real property.

I don't think the queen really has much say in the matter. And whatever say she does have is governed by parliament.

The situation in Thailand is not so transparent because of lese majeste laws.

No, I don't think the Thai royal family should be kicked off their land and have all their wealth confiscated by the government and redistributed to the poor.

On the other hand, let us not pretend that those assets are the state's assets held in trust for the Thai people.

The point I am trying make is the HMTK decided tomorrow, hey, I am going to sell all my property in downtown Bangkok, and all my shares in Siam Commercial Bank and Siam Cement, and distribute the money to whomever he wishes, including the poor, nobody is going to contradict that move.

Anonymous said...

I repeat Fonzi that surely you have more intelligence . . . Examine your motives deeply Fonzi why HMK's billions agitate you so.

It could not be because of your hypothetical 'what if' concern about: " . . . is the HMTK decided tomorrow, hey, I am going to sell all my property in downtown Bangkok, and all my shares in Siam Commercial Bank and Siam Cement, and distribute the money to whomever he wishes, including the poor, nobody is going to contradict that move."

BTW your scenario is exactly what happened to Thaksin-the-ex-great. He actually sold nearly all his (alleged ill-gotten)wealth but decided not to redistribute (pay his taxes). And what a very loud howls of protests that Thaksin stupidity provoked from all over Thailand! Thaksin wrongly assumed 'noboy was going to contradict', eh?

Unknown said...


I donlt know what Fonzie's objections are but I sure as shot know what mine are, and they are these:

It must be morally repugnant for someone in a leadership position of being 'universally revered' (no comment as to the truth or otherwise of that, or even if it is more true or less true than it used to be) should preach sufficiency 'theory' for others to practice, while conspicuously and systematically not practicing it himself.

The word generally used to describe this kind of behaviour is 'hypocrisy'.

Uncle John

Anonymous said...

Rich your ulcers must be killing you by now - - easily bothered by 'moral ambiguities', and, of all things 'sufficiency theories'.

Just who specifically Rich are you referring to - the person who "preach sufficiency theory for others to practice, while conspicuously and systematically not practicing it himself." Because quite frankly, if you read Thai News, just every prominent Thai, irrespective of their yellow, or red, or ambivalent colors, preach 'sufficiency theory' these days. And from what I have gathered, many too have been forced by the economic gloom to practice what they preach!

Unknown said...

Nice spin dude...

Hypocrisy = 'moral ambiguity'.

Cheers Vichai, you made my day brighter.

Not clearer, or more optimistic for Thais, but funnier at least, though whether or not that was your intent I am not certain about.

And I expect those that preach sufficiency for others are doing very nicely thank you.

Rich Uncle John

Jotman said...

"Money is like manure; it's not worth a thing unless it's spread around encouraging young things to grow."

- Thornton Wilder, The Matchmaker

Anonymous said...

looks like Vichai has already completely degraded himself to nothing else than personal attacks (I see he does a lot of them on NM too). I think Vichai has to take his own advise:

"Examine your motives deeply - why other people's comments agitate you so" ! ;)

anyway, I guess I'll just keep ignoring him.

here is a bit of topic piece of hillarious post by Yoon on his blog, which is little bit related to the matter of wealth - it is about statement by Ministry of Commerce that foreigners are forbidden to do farming in Thailand.
(the article on Bkk post yesterday:
Govt: Foreigners can’t farm here )

here is Yoon's reaction, even though Kanissorn has already made everything clear, Yoon sounds rather hysterically paranoid :

"That's a huge controversy that threatends to blow up if rice farming falls into the hands of non-Thais. It's not only illegal. It's going to be seen to be a new form of "economic invasion" of this country. "

so, when the huge and powerful local companies (somehow mostly run by ethnic chinese) lobby goverenment to make so called "Free trade" agreements, and then, recently, push gov. to lift all the import taxes on luxury goods to benefit themselfs and some Japanese companies - Yoon doesn't speak about "evonomic invasion". but when it is a question that farmers MAY get out of their slavary and serfdom and start to make some real money (and thus put all the middlemen out of biz) - Yoon screams: "disaster! economic invaions!"

hahaha ! don't you just love these guys?

Anonymous said...

antipad certainly could educate his fans on how allowing foreigners to farm (or own Thai farms) Thai agricultural lands will enrich the Thai farmers.

Take your pick antipad: (a) small Thai farming land being farmed by illegal immigrants from neighboring countries; or (b) huge multi-national companies like Cargill being allowed to till Thai farm lands.