Monarchy holds vast wealth
BANGKOK: Thailand’s monarchy, embodied for 70 years by King Bhumibol Adulyadej, is a fabulously wealthy institution in a country where the widening gap between an affluent Bangkok and a poor but well-populated countryside has fuelled years of political conflict.
In 2011, Forbes tallied up the holdings of the Crown Property Bureau which answers to the Thai monarch and estimated Bhumibol’s wealth at more than $30 billion. It owed much to research by Thai economist Porphant Ouyyant which made plain the enormous financial clout of the bureau. The Forbes listicle earned a rebuke from the US Thai embassy, which said the royal assets held by the bureau are not the king’s personal property, but belong to the institution of the monarchy and are “held in trust for the nation”. That distinction is enshrined in law, as is the taxexempt status of the bureau, which has revenue of $2.5bn (R35bn) to $3bn a year, from which part of the royal family’s expenses are paid. – ANA-AP