All for Fu Fu

16 03 2013

The German newspaper Bild has reported on yet another European shopping expedition by Thailand’s Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, apparently getting stuff for kids and dogs.

The report begins:

He flies his own Boeing 737 around the world. His father has a fortune of 30 billion euros. He sends his jet from Bangkok to London to his favorite (takeaway) spring rolls…. And now the 60 year-old prince is in Hamburg with a large entourage for a shopping spree!

As usual, the prince is reported to have flown “his” Boeing 737-400 and as soon as it landed, two large Mercedes Benz sedans and eight vans were waiting on the tarmac to collect the prince and his entourage. The prince was whisked off to a suite at the Atlantic Hotel. The story reports that normally goes for 4500 EUR a night, although PPT found that it was only 3,800 Euros tonight. But we guess that the prince gets it for free as it is part of the Kempinski Hotels group, owned by the Crown Property Bureau.

Then the shopping began: “The caravan of ten cars stopped at the first tier Accessories Shop “Pet Shop Boyz” at the Schmilinskystraße (St. George).” Apparently several thousand Euros when on dogie delights and toys. Fu Fu will be ecstatic. The prince then drooped more loot at a toy store near by. The report says the shopping will continue in Munich.

For earlier stories on the prince’s plane, see here.

For earlier shopping stories, see here, here, and here.

More on CentralWorld fire

1 03 2013

A week or so ago PPT posted on continuing court case on the CentralWorld arson in May 2010.  The South Bangkok Criminal Court is scheduled to deliver its ruling in the case against the only two remaining defendants after two juveniles were earlier acquitted. In another case related to the event, The Nation has a very short account.

The Civil Court has ruled that Deves Insurance, a company owned by the Crown Property Bureau, “must pay the compensation plus interest of 7.5 per cent per annum from March 31, 2011 to Central Group, following the 15-month lawsuit.” In addition it had to pay the Central Group’s legal costs. Apparently Deves claimed the burning of the department store was “an act of terrorism” and thus exempt from an “all-risk insurance policy.” The court ruled that the arson was not a result of terrorism.

The report states that the total claim against Deves was “Bt2.7 billion for property damage and another Bt990 million for loss of income as CentralWorld was closed from May 19 to September 28, 2010…”.

CPB continues evictions

17 12 2012

In a follow-up to our earlier post on Bloomberg’s exposé of the Crown Property Bureau’s plans to become a developer and the evictions this necessitated, the Bangkok Post reports that:

500 traders at Chalermlarp Market in Pratunam area on Monday morning walked in protest past Government House to lodge an appeal with the Crown Property Bureau, which has recalled the market’s land.

It is reported that the Crown Property Bureau had “called for bids for its use by a department store without notifying the traders in advance, thus depriving more than 1,000 vendors of land to live on and to make their living from.”

The traders “gathered at Pantip Plaza … marched to the Office of the Crown Property Bureau, and submitted a letter calling for it to review the decision to call for bids and to help the traders.”

As usual, the CPB had made “compensation” offers of “50,000 baht and a trading space did not help the traders at all because the space was in a remote area not suitable for business.”

CPB, land and evictions

12 12 2012

There’s an important and long story at Bloomberg on the Crown Property Bureau that deserves considerable attention. PPT won’t summarize it; rather, we highlight some points.

The story is essentially about how the CPB is trying to boost the returns it gets from its vast land holdings in Bangkok. In doing that, it is shifting many of its long-term tenants, including the use of evictions, which is usually a sensitive issue for the CPB – probably the country’s largest landlord – and one they try to suppress as much as possible, to limit the damage to its reputation. That has been relatively easy to do when the reporting was mainly by Thailand’s tame, self-censoring and timid mainstream media.CrownProperty

The story’s headline must evoke collective angst at the CPB: Monarchy Fund Evicts Elderly to Boost Profit in Bangkok Renewal. The CPB self-portrayal as an altruistic outfit that keeps rents low and supports communities is smashed as it plans to build condominiums to “boost returns and regenerate Bangkok with its first commercial development project.”

The CPB’s attacks on the elderly and poor are part and parcel of its decision to “shift to build commercial properties, instead of just leasing land to private developers…”. According to the report, the CPB “earned income of at least 11.1 billion baht last year. Of that, rental income provided 2.7 billion baht…”.1000baht

This move to boost income from property is justified by apologists who keep to the CPB’s mantra of a paternalistic landlord. Others, like Chan Bulakul, CEO of The Brooker Group, say, apparently without flinching: “This is not a profit-maximization organization, but they have to survive…”. With assets of around US$41 billion, “survival” hardly seems the right term, unless succession exposes the CPB to looting or worse.

Members of the royalist elite like the Democrat Party’s former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij, is totally dismissive of the poor tenants:

All resources within the country should be put to the best social and economic use…. For property which is obviously in commercial areas, or is already being used commercially, for the crown to expect commercial returns from other people using those properties is perfectly reasonable.

Of course, critics of the CPB are hampered by the lese majeste law and the fact that it is never required to be transparent. Academic Kevin Hewison says: “Because it is opaque, we know little about how its profits support the monarchy and the royal family.” If the CPB is opaque, the Privy Purse Bureau is an impenetrable secret space.  An insider states: “The extent of the Privy Purse’s landholdings and revenue are unknown … because they aren’t disclosed…”.

The king’s personal holdings are said to:

include shares valued at $63 million in companies including Minor International Pcl (MINT), Thailand’s biggest hotel operator, which runs local franchises for Burger King Worldwide Inc., according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Privately held land includes the sites of Siam Paragon and Siam Center malls in central Bangkok.

The report also notes that the royal family rakes in taxpayer funds, with the government having:

allocated 7.4 billion baht in tax money to fund travel, security, development projects and agencies related to the palace in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, a 10 percent increase from a year earlier, according to the budget.

Pile of moneyRoyalists dismiss calls for transparency. In doing so, they make some bizarre claims: “You cannot go into the bedroom of the king…. This is unlike in the U.K. — you can take the picture of the naked someone in the palace. That’s not our culture.”

In fact, naked pictures have been taken in a palace and circulated, more than once. Another culturalist apology crashes and burns….

Apparently related to this very fact of naked picture related issues, the challenge for the CPB, apart from simply filling bigger bags of cash,  is that “operations would change under a different monarch.” This seems to amount to “unforeseen events.”

After the king, who are Thailand’s richest?

30 08 2012

As usual, Forbes list of Thailand’s richest leaves off the king and royal family. However, they usually include them in the richest royals list out later in the year.

This year’s richest list generally sees the richest getting richer. As Forbes observes:

For a country seen by some outsiders to be beset by political turmoil and rural insurgency, never mind last fall’s calamitous flooding, Thailand has done remarkably well by its richest. Their collective wealth is up by better than 20% for a second straight year….

Many of Thailand’s wealthiest are looking to take on international rivals, on the strength of an expected 6% growth in the Thai economy this year.

The list of Thailand’s richest is here. The wealthiest is Dhanin Chearavanont who “boasts an estimated net worth of $9 billion.” He’s followed by the Chirathivat family with $6.9 billion, Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi worth $6.2 billion, the Yoovidhya family with $5.4 billion, Krit Ratanarak with $3.1 billion, the Bhirombhakdi family with $2.4 billion and the Maleenont family worth $1.8 billion. Quite a few royalists and Democrat Party supporters amongst this lot.

If the wealth of the top ten in the Forbes list is combined, then the total comes out roughly the same as the assets of the Crown Property Bureau.


Monarchies in comparison

27 08 2012

Personal or public?

Readers may recall that back in April this year, PPT posted regarding the scandal facing the Spanish king at that time and some of the historical coincidences that haunted the Spanish and Thai kings. At the Council on Foreign Relations blog, Joshua Kurlantzick has a post with a contemporary comparison.

Referring to a Washington Post article of a few days ago, Kurlantzick writes of how European austerity programs are impacting the monarchies there. Kurlantzick reminds readers of the criticism of the Spanish king, Juan Carlos, for his 19th Century and colonial-like penchant for shooting wild animals in Africa (see PPT’s earlier post). That criticism “led to a major backlash against the monarch.” The blog article states that that event has seen calls for “Juan Carlos to drastically cut his annual spending and to be much more transparent about how he is spending money on royal activities.”

While the well-funded and seemingly well-fueled escapes of the youngest British prince/playboy in Las Vegas may suggest that the austerities are not cutting too deep for some, the calls for greater transparency for the more controversial and big spending and well-connected royals has been growing, while establishment figures and self-serving royalists seek to protect the extravagant royals.

Kurlantzick then turns to Thailand:

Though it may be able to hold off such inquiries for now, via harsh lèse-majesté laws and the genuine reverence the monarchy enjoys, the Thai monarchy could learn some lessons from Juan Carlos. Like the Spanish king, the current Thai king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, has truly earned a high degree of respect from many Thais over the course of his lengthy reign. But that respect, and the fact that the king’s reign is strongly supported by a core of arch-royalists in Bangkok, does not mean that questions are not increasingly being raised, in private, about the royal family’s finances.

Kurlantzick’s view of “respect” is couched in terms that don’t obliterate history in the way that several news agencies have long done, and the point he makes about transparency for royal finances is an important one. While he believes that “royals seem to understand this [need] in Thailand,”we are not so sure the royals are in any way keen on opening up about health, wealth or much else.

His evidence for feeling that the Thai royals have been given a message is the “recent, royally-approved biography of the king’s life” that he says “contained significantly more information on the Crown Property Bureau “than any royally-approved book had in the past.” That’s true, but it is a bit of closing the gate after the horse has bolted given the high profile of an academic account (get it here) and the related Forbes story of the CPB. Essentially, the book is a royalist and palace attempt to steer the public account of the monarchy, post-Handley (and his The King Never Smiles).

Kurlantzick believes that as the average Thai knows something about the monarchy’s wealth, that knowledge “only fuels a hunger for more —though Thais will not say so in public. On social media sites, and in private conversations, discussion of the Crown Property Bureau now is far more common than in the past.”

Juan Carlos has apparently “announced he would be taking a pay cut voluntarily, according to the Washington Post story, in tune with the austere times.” Kurlantzick asks if that isn’t a “model for other monarchs?” Probably not, for as the palace and those responsible for the recent biography points out, this king is unlike any other…. and other such concoctions that serve “protect” and conceal.

Much that contributes to the wealth and power of the Thai monarchy remains missing from public view. See sets of PPT posts on this here and here.

As a most basic of examples, it remains unclear – make that opaque – how much taxpayer money goes to support the royal family, its activities, projects and personal spending. Efforts have been made to cull information from Budget Bureau papers, but there is no clarity and a myriad of government agencies pour funds into the support of the royals, with no accounting or public accountability (as one small example, think of royal cars). No minister or politician dares  raise questions about royal funding in parliament, which is meant to be one site of scrutiny over the expenditure of public monies; many of these people assist in what amount to cover ups. Senior bureaucrats regularly come out with dopey letters denying royal wealth.

Transparency remains pretty much off the agenda and accountability is a term that is unlikely to be used in the same breathe as monarchy.

Stories worth reading

24 08 2012

There are a few media stories currently available that are worthy of attention. PPT doesn’t have time to put each out in separate posts, so we are listing them here with brief comments, all from the Bangkok Post:

Impeaching Suthep

The new Speaker of the Senate Nikom Wairatchapanich has put the impeachment of Democrat Party MP, former deputy prime minister and signatory to sniper letters Suthep Thaugsuban on the senate agenda for Monday, Nikom’s very first day on the job. The charge from the National Anti-Corruption Commission is relatively minor, but these rules were set in place by those attacking pro-Thaksin Shinawatra parties, not thinking that silly rules will turn and bite them. PT would far prefer to see Suthep axed for his deliberate decisions to have anti-government protesters killed.


More state blacklists

As is well known from the War on Drugs, when the state puts together lists of “suspects,” the so-called suspects need to be very, very frightened, for the state’s tendency, through the police and military, is simply to conduct extrajudicial killings or to lock people up, often without a shred of evidence. Hence, it is very scary to learn that lists

… including politicians, school heads and local religious leaders, have been named as part of the southern insurgency network in a newly launched army handbook…. The blacklisted names are listed in two books which together are called The Order of Battle…. The second handbook identifies the names of leaders and their forces in each village, tambon and district of Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat and in four districts of Songkhla. The 500-page book lists 9,692 people as being involved in the insurgency network.

The Army has such a poor record, regularly killing its own citizens, that such a list of names constitutes a serious threat to each and every one of these persons.


The magic wand

The GT200 story just won’t go away, mainly because the fools who purchased the useless things, often at inflated prices, and who continue to defend them (an example being Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha) are also trying to charge the sellers. Sure, the sellers were frauds, but what about the dopes who bought the supposedly magic toys. Maybe investigators should look at the incompetence amongst the so-called security agencies.

We want it all!

The cry of the rich as they such up all the wealth, land and other resources! While PPT is not convinced that the reporting in the Bangkok Post editorial is entirely accurate, the basic point holds. We noted this: “For juristic persons, the biggest land owner has more than 2.8 million rai…”. PPT thought readers might wonder if this owner was royal. It seems that this might not be the case. The chapter on the Crown Property Bureau in the semi-official King Bhumibol Adulyadej. A Life’s Work, states that the CPB holds 41,300 rai (p. 283). Could it be the armed forces? Or one of the big farmers like CP? If readers have any ideas, let us know.

Army good, protesters bad

Who could possibly be surprised when Thawil Pliensri defends the Army’s murderous assault on red shirt protesters in 2010. After all, Thawil was secretary-general of the National Security Council at the time of the sniper orders and secretary of the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations set up by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government to crush the protests by the red shirts. He says that “the operation to retake areas in Bangkok occupied by the protesters was a legitimate one.” Of course he does. He claims that “[s]ome information has been distorted and tampered with,” but seems to provide no evidence. Ultra-royalists will believe him. He, like the Army boss, declares: “state officials who risked their lives to disperse unlawful protesters deserved praise and should not be accused of killing people.” What causes Thawil to defend murder with statements that are so ludicrous as to make him look like a lying fool is his fear that he may not enjoy the impunity that he currently enjoys.

Economists on the CPB

12 08 2012

The Cambridge Journal of Economics is a well-known journal, respected in the field, being ranked in the top one-fifth of all economics journals. In its list of forthcoming articles, it has this:

Jeffrey Owen Herzog,Kamal A. Munir and Paul Kattuman, “The King and I: monarchies and the performance of business groups,” … first published online July 31, 2012.

Unfortunately, to read it, one has to be a registered user, pay $32 or be at a university or company that has a subscription. No doubt it will soon be posted somewhere else, but we can’t find it at present.

For a taste of the article, which is a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods, the abstract states:

Large, highly diversified business groups are a prominent feature of the industrial landscape of most emerging economies. Their competitiveness has been the topic of much debate in the international business literature. This paper intervenes in this debate by utilising data from Thailand and demonstrating that whereas business groups create value by filling institutional voids, the political context of a country and the investment of powerful actors in particular groups can cause great variance across business groups’ performance.

From that, you would be hard-pressed to know that the paper is about the monarchy’s Crown Property Bureau.

While PPT hasn’t read the whole thing in detail yet, we do note that the authors tend to treat the non-economic literature on the monarchy uncritically, and seem unaware of debates regarding the veracity of claims made in works like Stevenson’s disgraced biography, and they seem unaware of other relevant work such as the update on the CPB in the recent King Bhumibol Adulyadej. A Life’s Work. In addition, it seems that the data used is drawn from 2001 to 2005, with considerable emphasis on the Booker Group’s report on ownership groups from 2001. Much has changed in the period since. Caveats aside, this from the conclusion seems of interest:

This study utilised robust panel estimation procedures to investigate different hypotheses regarding the performance of affiliated firms in Thailand. We carefully assessed group affiliation using previous authors’ work and established experts on Thai business groups. We found that those businesses affiliated with a particular group tended to outperform non-affiliated businesses, thus lending more credence to scholars espousing an ‘institutional voids’ view. We rejected the possibility that agency problems in business groups compromise their performance. Most significantly, upon dividing groups into those in which the Crown has invested and those where it has not, we found that firms whose groups are affiliated with the Crown outperform all other firms in the stock market, thus reflecting the market’s positive response to the Crown’s investment in a particular firm. Our analysis suggests that while the short-term profitability of Crown-related business groups may lag behind that of their competitors, investors place more value in Crown-related firms because of the Crown’s symbolic capital. It does not appear that the Crown invests in the most successful firms in an industry. It does, however, seem to be the case that the Crown’s halo effect leads to higher than expected valuation in the stock market. If the Crown’s association bestows any material benefits, they do not appear in the profitability ratio. The market, then, appears to respond not to greater efficiencies but to the power of association.

Each of the highlighted points is worthy of attention, not least by investors as the succession draws closer.

Monarchists and royalists on lese majeste

17 06 2012

PPT has finally had the time to compose a comment on two recent discussions of lese majeste. We think both efforts, while useful in keeping the issue on the international agenda, were problematic.

At Siam Voices, Lisa Gardner has a bit of detail on the “Rhetoric and Dissent: Where to next for Thailand’s lèse majesté law?” discussion from a week or so ago. The discussion involved two of the respected and aged gentlemen of Thai studies, Sulak Sivaraksa and Benedict Anderson along with two younger generation journalists,  Pravit Rojanaphruk and Andrew MacGregor Marshall.

Frankly, we found the discussion rambling and not particularly revealing of anything new. Still, that probably shows how far things have moved on monarchy and lese majeste in recent years. The comments we felt were most problematic were from the outspoken Sulak. While he has been on the receiving end of lese majeste charges in the past, this doesn’t mean that everything he says on the topic makes sense.

We agree with Sulak that: “If journalists had more guts, if they can speak critically, openly, things would change enormously – but they all avoid the issues…”. He’s certainly right when he observes:

I think, on the whole, people don’t take the monarchy as that sacred, that wonderful, as they try to tell you in the media. As they try to tell you in educational institutes.

His comment on the greed of the Crown Property Bureau is also worth repeating:

I think if the monarch (keeps) clear from the greed that is the Crown Property Bureau – if they’re clear from the army, which represent power – I think the monarchy will become less powerful. Like it used to be….

But we stop agreeing there. His next claim is that: “I think the King made it very clear. The case of LM – each case – harms him personally and undermines the monarchy. He made that very clear…”. PPT thinks, and we’ve said it several times, this is a patently false claim. In fact, Sulak knows it. In one of his own cases, the Royal Household Bureau was crucial in determining that he should be “taught a lesson.” Following the king’s statement on lese majeste, nothing changed except that cases have increased. Not only was the king’s statement far from clear, but we find it astounding that anyone can think that if the king wanted the law changed that it wouldn’t be done.

Sulak then asks:

But why [d]oes this government not carry out the King’s wishes? Because Thaksin [Shinawatra] wants more and more cases of lese-majeste, to undermine the King and to harm him personally…

For PPT, this is utter nonsense. It is clear that the Thaksin-Yingluck position is defined by their belief that the lese majeste law is non-negotiable. The Army, other ultra-royalists and the palace have made this plain.

It is not just the current government that has kept the law. The government led by privy counselor Surayud Chulanont was perfectly placed to implement the king’s supposed will. It didn’t. Perhaps the biggest user of the law against political opponents – the Abhisit Vejjajiva government – was less likely to do the king’s alleged will yet we don’t Abhisit and his lot thought they were doing the king’s will by throwing red shirts in jail.

Sulak’s claim is largely driven by his anti-Thaksin politics. He claimed his most recent lese majeste case was a result of Thaksin trying to get him. Frankly, we doubt this for several reasons, not least being that Sulak is simply not as politically significant as he thinks he is.

We now turn to the recent Al Jazeera program on lese majeste. We posted the link a couple of days ago, and have just had a chance to watch the show. There was much of interest in the first half of the story and quite a lot of it  very sensible.

The first scene that caught our attention was when self-described ultra-royalist Taweesak Suthakavatin explained why the monarchy is so important for him and Thais in general. He states that Thais are not suited to “Western” democracy because they are not rational in politics! Because they are prone to patronage, Thais are best off with the supposedly benevolent king at the head of the patronage system. Thus  Taweesak manages to denigrate Thais as incapable of engaging in politics and in need of a stern and loving father.

Remarkably, half of the Al Jazeera show is handed over to an interview with a monarchist (Sulak, again) and two royalists (Tul Sitthisomwong and Panitan Wattanayagorn). We’re not sure why the producers decided on these three, but having Sulak as the “opposed to lese majeste” speaker against an academic who has sold his soul and services to the military and the so-called Democrat Party and the clown royalist Tul is a strange combination.

Sulak says pretty much the same as he does in the above-mentioned discussion. In this program, though, he comes across as sensible and reliable when compared with the dolts Tul and Panitan.

Panitan is the most annoying because he seems to want to reinvent himself as a disinterested academic. For example, when asked why there are calls for the lese majeste law to be amended, his first point is that the law has been vigorously used in recent years. He doesn’t mention that he was the spokesman for the government that most abused this law, and that he wholly supported throwing political opponents in jail. When he adds that “several divisive groups have tried to use the law to their own advantage,” he is demonstrating a remarkable degree of arrogance.

His arrogance is meant to mask his deliberate deceptions. When asked about the misuse of the law, he does not mention the government he served and their repeated use of the law against political opponents. When he says anything about the Abhisit government it is to claim that its committee on lese majeste, which oversaw the biggest rise ever in cases charged, dropped a case against BBC journalist Jonathan Head. PPT has seen no independent evidence for this claim, and when we heard Panitan earlier on lese majeste at the FCCT, he made no mention of this. When he speaks of prosecutions he makes it sound like those charged are somewhere other than in jail.

Does he really believe that he will not be seen as a dissembler and a charlatan? Panitan can’t help himself as he arrogantly lies and conjures fantasies with no hint of shame.

He’s more real when he speaks of the lese majeste law as important for national security and when he babbles about the king being vital for everything Thai and for the “well-being” of the country. That’s the line that allows the law to be endlessly abused.

Panitan supports the law, and Sulak makes him look rather silly when he declares the law “antiquated, old-fashioned, useless.”

Having Tul on the program is pretty much a waste of space. He’s indisputably vacuous and has a single line: don’t change the law. He simply can’t explain why in any cogent way.  When listening to him rail against red shirts and that 3-15 years in jail for offenders is a reasonable sentence, he demonstrates a breathtaking ignorance.

There’s much more from Tul and Panitan that is bizarre, fatuous and untruthful. We could say that they come across as the Laurel and Hardy of lese majeste, but that would be insulting to the great comedy duo.

Wikileaks: All in the family

10 06 2012

PPT has finished a first cull of the Wikileaks cables, and we have posted commentary on those that seemed of interest. We are now going back through the Cablegate database more systematically, and again we will gradually post comments on those that strike us as revealing. Apologies if we sometimes post on a cable we have had up before; there are a lot of them.

Given all of the material belching from the international media on England’s jubilee and the post on the Ananda Mahidol idolatry, a cable from 2 February 2005 seems worth some commentary. In it, Ambassador Ralph Boyce writes almost breathlessly about the then “latest news” on the royal family. The Embassy and State Department were eagerly royal-watching. If readers find tabloid-like “revelations” distasteful, read no further, for it is of that style.

Boyce reports on a 27 January 2005 ceremony with the king and Princess Sirindhorn leading to “a private audience” for Boyce and a couple of others.

The first big news item is that “the King showed great interest in all exchanges.” The second item is that a discussion of “mental health and family stability” animated him. Boyce says: “These issues are obviously near and dear to the heart of the King, and while involved in this free-flowing conversation, he made several notable remarks.”

On family stability, Boyce states that the king commented:

I understand how important it is to have both a mother and a father in a family unit. I lost my father at a very early age, and was raised by my mother. While she did a wonderful job of raising her children, she could not, alone, replace the role of a father.

Some might read into this the his own search for a father-figure, first amongst the old and senior princes who fought against the 1932 Revolution, followed by his adulation for General Sarit Thanarat, who reciprocated and overturned much that had been done post-1932 to reduce royal power.

On his kids, he is reported as stating:

I have four children. But she (Sirindhorn) is the only one who ‘sits on the ground with the people.’ She never married, but she has millions of children.

Not really anything new or startling in this reporting, but Boyce then turns to a conversation when he “called on Dr. Chirayu Isarangkul na Ayuthaya, Director-General of the Crown Property, on February 1, 2005.”

First, and, Boyce says “most significantly,”  Chirayu “said that the Crown Prince’s wife … is pregnant.” PPT isn’t sure why this is significant for he also says that this was widely known. Perhaps the significance is in the unstated hope for a boy that would allow the dynasty a line. Otherwise, the only boys were from the disowned Yuvadhida Polpraserth, who lives in exile in the U.S., with her 4 sons, having been thrown out of Thailand by the prince several years ago.

Chirayu mentions “the Crown Prince’s former consort, Mom Yuvathida (aka Mom Benz),” saying that:

Prince, Yuvadhida and kids in earlier times

on the Queen’s last visit to the United States she had agreed to an audience with Mom Benz and her children, but that Mom Benz had not made contact with the royal traveling party. Subsequently, Ambassador Sakthip was asked to travel to Florida to meet with Mom Benz and her children, but Mom Benz declined the meeting. Apparently, there is an issue of medical expenses for Mom Benz’s third son; the Crown Prince reportedly has made it clear that he will cover these expenses and that he does not want his mother or father to be burdened with the issue of his former family.

On the family itself and the favorite Sirindhorn,

Chirayu noted that it said as much about the failings of the King’s other three children as his fondness and respect for Princess Sirindhorn. The other three had tried to carryout their royal responsibilities, but clearly were not as capable or interested as Princess Sirindhorn.

On the king’s eldest daughter, Chirayu said that:

he had had to undertake much of the bitter legal mediation between Princess Ubolratana and Peter Jensen. He noted that their separation and divorce had been quite nasty and that Mr. Jensen had not come to Thailand to attend his son’s funeral. Chirayu said that he fended off queries as to where Mr. Jensen was by joking that he was afraid to come to Thailand because the Crown Prince would beat him up.


This is an interesting comment, for at the time there were rumors that Jensen had arrived in Thailand but had been turned away and the comment about the prince was widely circulated. It seems the palace knows how to score advantages from the rumor mill.

Remarkably, in a diplomatic cable, Boyce then adds his own re-statement of a rumor:

We have heard that Mr. Jensen borrowed money from several Thais and Thai banks prior to his divorce from Princess Ubolratana and that these funds have never been repaid.

The rumors usually have it that Ubolratana was a keen borrower.

It is sometimes commented that the royal family is dysfunctional. However, as the above rather odd diplomatic cable seems to indicate, while there are spats and disappointments, it seems to indicate that accommodations are made and the meatier things of conspicuous consumption and political and economic life probably hold sway over the squabbles.


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