A seminar on the Crown Property Bureau

15 04 2015

PPT understand that material from Asia Sentinel is sometimes blocked in Thailand, especially if it contains royal news. This means that the new article “Thailand’s Crown Property Bureau: Economic Brake?” is blocked.

By an anonymous correspondent, the article reports on a seminar in March at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore [opens a PDF adverting the seminar]. The headline story is that academic Porphant Ouyyanont reckons that Crown Property Bureau “is the elephant in the country’s economic room, controlling a full 15 percent of its economy and, … acting as a significant brake on economic growth.”

Porphant is reported as stating that “… the quality of Thai capitalist firms has remained poor as most economic growth has stemmed from the monopoly of major Thai business firms tied to the CPB…. This has resulted in low-value added economic performance coupled with high barriers to entry for new businesses, thus keeping small businesses stagnant and undeveloped.”

The claim in the article that the Crown Property Bureau is not held by the royal family “and doesn’t belong to the king although it manages the king’s property” is, we think true but also misleading. Legally, this is the position put by defenders of the bloated CPB and the monarchy. Practically, though, with the king appointing six of members of the bureau’s governing board, and the power of the CPB having reverted to the king years ago, the CPB is effectively held by the royal family.

The related claim that the CPB “pays no taxes” is also true but also misleading. Many of the CPB largest stock holdings are in public firms, and as far as PPT is aware, these firms pay taxes. What isn’t taxed are other holdings, including the huge land holdings. Proposals to implement a property tax exclude the CPB and other royal holdings.

The article also states that the “most complete record of the bureau is contained in The King Never Smiles, an authoritative biography of King Bhumibol…”. We think this is also misleading and would direct readers to Porphant’s own 2008 study, but which is behind a paywall. Readers without access might find the  update he did for his bit in the sanitized big book biography [downloads a PDF that is not banned in Thailand] of some use.


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