At The Nation it is reported that Asa Sarasin has retired as secretary-general of the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary. He was in the position for 12 years and reportedly asked to stand down some time ago. In the context of the ancient old men hanging around the palace so they may bath in the reflected glory, that seems a little odd as Asa is listed by The Nation as only 64. In fact, he was born in 1936, so he is 76 years old. Deserving of a rest perhaps, but a spring chicken when compared with Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda who soldiers on in his 90s.
Asa will be “succeeded by one of the deputies, Grit Kanchanakunchorn, making him the sixth person in that post during His Majesty’s reign. The promotion takes effect on Monday.” Grit was once Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and before that was Ambassador to the United States. We have been having trouble finding information on Grit, so if readers can help us out, we’d gladly post more.
Back to Asa, who The Nation says is “known for being good at his job and serving His Majesty in an exemplary manner. “Back in in 2008, one report had Asa as exceptionally busy:
With Bhumibol’s advanced age and declining health, and with one palace insider saying his private principal secretary, Asa Sarasin, handles most of the monarch’s day-to-day affairs, diplomats and others speculate that the military now marches mainly to the beat of the royal advisory Privy Council. Both institutions would likely see their powers legally diminished in a post-Bhumibol era were a pro-Thaksin administration allowed to rule and amend laws without the resistance of a PAD-like protest movement.
Asa has been an important contact for the U.S. Embassy, although not always trusted by the Embassy (see here) and was manipulative of the public through bent stories from the palace (see here). It was Asa that Ambassador Ralph Boyce went to when handing over an advance copy of Paul Handley’s The King Never Smiles and waiting expectantly for Thaksin Shinawatra to fall from power. A Wikileaks cable described Asa’s account of palace political interventions prior to the 2006 election.
His tenure saw the Office earn something said to be “good governance status.” PPT can’t imagine that it could be anything else. Imagine the king’s office having a governance system based on charisma, personal relationships, favoritism and favor, and nepotism.
In addition to all of that political activity, as a royal flunkey, he was also engaged in a lot of business for himself and the palace. One sources states:
Mr. Arsa Sarasin serves as an Advisor to the Board of Directors of Bangkok Bank Public Company. Mr. Sarasin served as the Chief Executive Officer of Padaeng Industry Public Company Limited and the President, Padaeng Industry Co., Ltd…. Mr. Sarasin serves as Chairman of Thai Asia Pacific Brewery Company Limited. He serves as Chairman of Board of Governors of Pacific City Club Ltd. He serves as Honorary Chairman of The Foundation for International Human Resources Development, Toa Paint (Thailand) Co., Ltd. and the Chairman, TOA Group of Companies. He serves as Chairman of the Board of Polymer Solution Co., Ltd. He serves as the Chairman of Amata City Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of Amata Corp. Public Co. Ltd. He serves as Chairman of Padaeng Industry Public Co. Ltd. He serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Maesod Clean Energy Company Limited. He has been Chairman and Independent Director of Siam Makro plc since 2007. He serves as Co-Chairman of Thai-Lao Association. Mr. Sarasin serves as an Independent Director of Charoen Pokphand Foods Public Co. Ltd. He serves as Director of Siam Cement Public Co. Ltd. and is a Member of its Governance and Nomination Committee. He serves as a Director of Thai Pure Drinks Ltd. and Thai Prime Fund. He is also a Director of Thai Tapioca Development Institute. He served as a Director of Vinythai Public Company Limited. He serves as a Member of Thailand Business Council for Sustainable Development.
Politics, royalty and business do mix.