Updated: Two views on monarchy

6 01 2015

Regular readers will know that PPT often re-posts Ji Ungpakorn’s work on Thailand. In a recent post at Ugly Thailand, he asks: Does the Thai King’s immense wealth give him political power?

His answer to this is made in the context of his acknowledgement that the king:

… owns a huge capitalist conglomerate, in the shape of the Crown Property Bureau (CPB), and … he is also the richest person in Thailand…. The CPB owns a large number of shares in the Siam Commercial Bank and Siam Cement. It also owns huge amounts of land, often in prime real-estate sites…. The monarch is formally in charge of its investments. The King also has a separate private fortune.

Even so, Ji asks: “But does immense wealth and being nominally in charge of a huge conglomerate automatically confer political power?” His answer is that it doesn’t and makes a kind of Poulantzian argument about the state being relatively autonomous of the capitalist class.

Yet Ji wants to make the state even more autonomous than this, arguing that the king “is beholden to the military for his wealth.” More than this, the king has no power over the armed forces. Even so, Ji acknowledges that the king “cannot be separated from political power, but not because he or the institution of the monarchy are powerful. It is because those who have real political power use him as a tool.”

We are not so sure (see below), but we do agree with this:

Nor can he be separated from his role in perpetuating Thailand’s gross economic inequality. That is why the monarchy should be abolished and its vast wealth nationalised for the benefit of ordinary people.

 Here’s an article that says why PPT prefers to see economic and political power as intertwined. It is from The Independent and looks at broader issues associated with the sex scandal enveloping Britain’s Prince Andrew and written by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown:

As you know by now, Prince Andrew has been accused by a woman known as Jane Doe 3 of being “forced” by Jeremy Epstein to have sex with him when she was a teenager.

Of course, Buckingham Palace denies the allegations. However, as Alibhai-Brown says,

The story will not end there, but for now that is all we can say on this particular scandal. It should, however, raise questions about our monarchy, its role and position, the devious, secret way it operates.

She’d be jailed in Thailand. No local journalist has dared touch any of the scandals, sexual and otherwise, in the royal family. But British law does not prevent reasonable questioning of the monarchy and royal behavior.

She looks at the roots of the deviousness and secretiveness of the monarchy:

The Magna Carta is now 800 years old…. The document did not give every subject fundamental equality and rights. It was a charter by and for the upper classes. Still, there will be events marking this much mythologised moment throughout 2015.

… OK, so let join in with this latest national commemoration, part truth, part fantasy. It may encourage us all to contemplate and renew our faith in liberty, freedoms, fundamental human rights and democracy, which came much later.

Alibhai-Brown continues:

But how is that possible when the family at the top of the social structure undermines every one of the ideals and principles that our nation proclaims at home and abroad?

She mentions “Prince Andrew … cavorting with insalubrious billionaires and vicious autocrats.” She observes:

Human rights? Why should an ageing, playboy prince care about those? Prince Charles is matey with Arab despots too. The next time you feel the urge to denounce Robert Mugabe, remember these royal appeasers. Yes Blair, Clinton and Bush also had unsavoury friendships. But they lost power, eventually. Our royals can carry on sleazing indefinitely.

That’s because they aren’t elected but are of the right blood. That blood, the privileges it presents and the access to power and wealth taint the monarchy:

Freedom of speech and expression is held up as a shining British value. But the Queen and her brood can and do stop the media and authors from pursuing legitimate investigations and asking tough questions. They can come down so heavy that seasoned journalists shake with terror and give up.

The BBC has been persuaded from broadcasting two programmes fronted by Steve Hewlett, a much respected multi-media man. If we, the people, had been allowed to watch the programmes, we might have seen how the Palace used scheming spin doctors to erase Diana from national memory and replace her with Camilla, and how Prince Charles’s actions go way beyond his constitutional role and so on. I don’t blame the BBC. Lawyers employed by the royals are like Alsatians, fiercely protective and very sharp.

Imagine what the reaction would be if, say, Tony Blair stopped the BBC from broadcasting a critical programme on his activities. Britons would be outraged. But with the Royal Family, there is only quiet acquiescence. We are subjects after all, the great brainwashed.

They have particular benefits that result from blood and privilege: “The Queen, the Duke, her children, and grandchildren are not covered by the freedom of Information Act.”

Once in a while, we get to hear of private jets and costly jaunts, but the conversation is quickly shut down by a largely loyalist fourth estate. What about power? As Owen Jones writes in his book, The Establishment: “In practice…members of the Royal Family have a powerful platform from which to intervene in democratic decisions. Prince Charles, the designated successor to the throne has met with ministers at least three dozen times since the election…’ His correspondence with ministers is still kept from the public eye. Transparency is for only for plebs and politicians, it seems. The royals sit among the clouds, at the summit of the secret state and look down on us.

If we accept this settlement we cannot be a proper democracy. When some – whether wicked, stupid, or even wonderful – inherit limitless privileges and untold wealth, and are handed the highest positions in society, we, the rest, are lesser beings. Humans in Britain are not born equal, cannot be equal.

We will not have a credible meritocracy until this unholy edifice is dismantled. I know monarchists will say privileged families are found in strong republics too and that this system gives us stability and unity. All bosh. Wealth is indeed passed on by the rich everywhere, but  they are not subsided by their nations, and they are not revered.

Blood and wealth make for a social, political and economic order that is unequal, unfair and maintained by state, capitalists and others who benefit from the maintenance of hierarchy. To quote Ji, this system is “perpetuating Thailand’s gross economic inequality. That is why the monarchy should be abolished…”.

Update: A reader points out another interesting approach to succession, this time in Britain. Nick Cohen at The Guardian comments on a banal and likely interventionist King Charles III, when he get his hands on the throne. If you doubt this, look at the claims made by the next king’s supporters, speaking for him. Blood, wealth and hierarchy mean political access.





270 baht from each man, woman and child

25 09 2014

How much does it cost to “honor” the monarchy “sufficiently”? For the coming year, Prachatai does the math, based on information published by the Budget Bureau.

The military dictatorship established following May’s coup has wrapped itself in royalist legitimacy – as so many rightist military leaders have done since the 1950s. This latest effort has seen the “national budget for honouring the royal family” skyrocket by about 20% to “17 billion baht or about US$536 million next year.”Senile king

This is the money the taxpayer pays out for the richest monarchy in the world.

This budget “for preserving the honour of the royal household in 2015 will exceed the budget allocated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, and five other ministries.”

Prachatai does some calculations: “32,854 baht or US$1,019 per minute” or “1,971,262 baht or US$61,168 per hour” or “47,310,290 baht or US$1,468,038 per day.”

As might be expected, the National Legislative Assembly reached consensus on the royal budget in quick time. The budget for honoring the royal family is used in many ways, with Prachatai noting that the funds are “distributed to public agencies to print posters of the royal family members, build monuments, and organize events on important occasions relating to the monarchy, such as HM the King’s Birthday which also doubles Father’s Day.”

The budget for “honoring the royal family” over the past three years has been almost 14 billion, 11.2 billion and 10.7 billion baht. The increase over the past few years has been about 70%.





Rose on abolishing the monarchy

5 07 2014

The following is from Chatwadee Rose Amornpat‘s Facebook page:

The Misconception of “Lom Chao (ล้มเจ้า)”

ความเข้าใจผิดของคำว่า “ล้มเจ้า”

It looks so fashionable these days, among royalists, to accuse people who seek democracy to “lom chao (ล้มเจ้า)”- one who seeks to abolish the royals!

Those who get accused are, almost always, deny the accusation. It is something of shame to abolish the royals or the monarchy system, so to speak!

I am often confused as to the nervousness of the accused! It seems to me that the best answer to this is accusation should be this: “Is it against the law to abolish the royals or the monarchy system?” or “Why can’t I abolish the royalist system?”

You, guys, please stop denying it! Stop denying the accusations from the Thai royalists! Tell them this, “Yes, I want to crush your royals!”

Here are some of the reasons why I feel Thai royals should be abolished!

1. Because Thai royals have committed so many vicious crimes during the past decades with impunity!

2. Because the top royal, King Bhumipon, based on the available evidence, likely killed his elder brother, King Ananda to become king himself! Here’s the link to this very mysterious regicide case of King Ananda.

https://www.facebook.com/notes/andrew-macgregor-marshall/thailands-saddest-secret/566797063339637

3. Because the top royal, King Bhumipon, in the likely collusion with the Thai military, ordered the killing of unarmed and peaceful students and people in all of the pro-democracy movements in the history of Thailand!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Thailand_(1932–73)

4. Because Thai royals have systematically and viciously implant in the mind of the poor and uneducated that they are from heaven and better than the rest of the populace.

This is through their non-stop propaganda media in the news, posters, television and radio- all paid for by taxpayers! Such expenses are extremely wasteful.

King Bhumipon has now created a “personality cult” to be wrongly and undeservedly worshipped by Thai people!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYi2KiEilas&list=UUeSKbGqOF0Rqka0XPgvMxfQ&index=151

5. Because of Thai royals collect money from the poor people like beggars.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=266147536912233&set=a.245894312270889.1073741828.100005509666009&type=1&theater

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=266951696831817&set=a.251505895043064.1073741842.100005509666009&type=1&theater

6. Because Thai taxpayers have to pay for their palaces’ expenses such as electricity, water, air-condition including several thousand of royal security guards, fleet of airplanes, helicopters, automobiles and many other expensive items. Please see detail at this link:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=UUeSKbGqOF0Rqka0XPgvMxfQ

7. Because King Bhumipon has been ranked the richest monarch in the world while poor children have to sell flowers and garlands in the streets of Bangkok just to help out their family. Beggars and homeless are everywhere throughout the country.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DeSVAm-Tt4

8. Because Thai education lies in their school text books about world’s views on monarch and democracy.

9. Thai royals and its monarchy network lie to the world and Western media that Thailand is a democratic country with its so-called, “Constitutional Monarchy,” but it is in fact an absolute monarchy with the exception that the King is not responsible for the welfare of the people and the nation. The Thai constitution was written to give all the power to the monarch.

http://www.asianlii.org/th/legis/const/2007/1.html#C02

9. Thai and Western media often erroneously hailed that Thai king is so well-loved and revered by the Thai people. But they often fail to state that there is an unjust and uncivilized law protecting the Thai king from criticisms, even if such criticisms are based on the truth! Violation of this barbaric law carries a jail term of 3-15 years for each offence.

This law is called “lese majeste law” under the Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code. Thus one can only praise the king and his family. Therefore, one never knows if the praise is genuine or not. Many people are now in jail or fled the country.

https://thaipoliticalprisoners.wordpress.com/decidedcases/

10. Because the following great people of some of these countries have abolished their royals a long time ago:

Russian Emperor Nicholas II in 1917 (97 years ago)

France during French Revolution in 1792 (222 years ago)

Germany – Imperial Germany in 1918 (96 years ago)

The UK – King George VI in 1952 (52 years ago). Now Queen Elizabeth II but no power.

Japan – Emperor Showa in 1926 (88 years ago) Now Emperor Akihito but no power.

China – Last Emperor of China, Emperor Puyi in 1912

Thailand’s neighbors who crushed their last king:

Vietnam – Nguyen Dynasty in 1945 (70 years ago)

Burma – Konbaung Dynasty in 1885 (129 years ago)

Cambodia – Norodom Sihanouk in 2004, now symbolic only but no power. (10 years ago)
Laos – Sisavan Vatthana in 1975 (39 years ago)

I wish to quote the great Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States:

“Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable – a most sacred right – a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world.” By Abraham Lincoln

Catch you guys later as I’m on my way to Smithsonian Institution and later the Monument. Washington, D.C. is such a beautiful city! USA is truly the Land of the Free!

-Chatwadee Rose Amornpat

————————
ความเข้าใจผิดของคำว่า “ล้มเจ้า


ดูเหมือนว่ามันเป็นสิ่งที่คนคลั่งลัทธิเจ้าชอบกล่าวหาคนที่รักปชต.ว่าเป็นคนล้มเจ้า คำว่าล้มเจ้า หมายความว่า…พวกเราต้องการยอกเลิกระบอบศักดินา เจ้าขุนมูลนาย ไม่มีอะไรมากไปกว่านี้หรอก

คนที่ถูกกล่าวหาก็มักจะปฎิเสธข้อกล่าวหานี้ คล้ายๆกับว่าการล้มเจ้าเป็นเรื่องหน้าอับอายทำนองนั้น

ข้าพเจ้ามีความฉงนสงสัยในความกระวนกระวายใจของผู้ถูกกล่าวหา ความจริงเเล้วข้าพเจ้าคิดว่าคำตอบที่ดีสำหรับข้อกล่าวหานี้ ต้องถามกลับไปว่า ..เฮ้ย การล้มเจ้านี่มันผิดกฎหมายจริงหรือ ? ทำไมฉันจะล้มเจ้าไม่ได้ล่ะ ?

ฉันจะให้เหตุผลบางประการให้ทราบว่าทำไมฉันต้องการให้ประเทศไทยไม่มีระบอบกษัตริย์อีกต่อไป

๑.เจ้าไทยทำความชั่วก่ออาชญากรรมมามากมาย ในหลายๆศตวรรษที่ผ่านมาโดยที่ไม่เคยได้รับโทษอะไรเลย

๒.จากหลักฐานต่างๆที่ได้มา ดูเหมือนว่ากษัตริย์ภูมิพลนั่นเเหล่ะที่เป็นคนสังหารอนันดาร.๘ เพื่อที่จะเป็นพระเจ้าเเผ่นดิน เเละเพื่อให้ตัวเองครอบครองราชบัลลังก์

https://www.facebook.com/notes/andrew-macgregor-marshall/thailands-saddest-secret/566797063339637

๓.มาเฟียภูมิพลรวมหัวกับเผด็จการทหารไทยสั่งฆ่าประชาชนที่ไร้อาวุธเเละต่อต้านด้วยความสงบเพื่อเรียกร้องปชต.ตามประวัติศาสตร์ไทยที่ผ่านมาทุกครั้ง โปรดดูลิ้งค์ข้างต้นที่นำมาเเปะไว้ให้

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Thailand_(1932–73)

๔.ระบอบกษัตริย์ไทยปลูกฝังวัฒนธรรมความเชื่อที่ผิดๆให้กับประชาชนไทยที่ยากจนไร้การศึกษาว่าพวกเขาเป็นเทวดาจากสวรรค์มาจุติบนโลกใบนี้ เเละมีบุญญาธิการมากกว่าประชาชนในประเทศ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYi2KiEilas&list=UUeSKbGqOF0Rqka0XPgvMxfQ&index=151

๕.เขากระทำการเช่นนี้ด้วยการโฆษณาชวนเชื่อตั้งเเต่เช้าจนตกดึก24/7ในสื่อต่างๆ รวมถึงมีการติดภาพโปรเตอร์ของกษัตริย์เเละราชวงศ์ทั่วทุกมุมเมืองในประเทศไทย มิหนำซ้ำ ประชาชนผู้เสียภาษี เป็นผู้จ่ายค่าโฆษณาชวนเชื่อให้กับกษัตริย์ภูมิพลเเละครอบครัวด้วย

ภูมิพลเเละครอบครัวทำตัวให้เปรียบเสมือนเป็นมนุษย์ที่บรรลุโสดาบัน เพื่อหลอกลวงต้มตุ๋นปชช.ทุกคนในประเทศให้เคารพบูชา

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=266147536912233&set=a.245894312270889.1073741828.100005509666009&type=1&theater

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=266951696831817&set=a.251505895043064.1073741842.100005509666009&type=1&theater

พวกเจ้าทุกคนในราชวงศ์นั้นทำตัวเป็นขอทาน รับเงินการบริจาคจากประชาชนผู้ยากไร้การศึกษาในขณะที่ประชาชนเดินทางไปรับเสด็จ

https://www.facebook.com/rosedemocracy/media_set?set=a.266193503574303.100005509666009&type=3

๖.ประชาชนผู้เสียภาษีจะต้องรับภาระในการจ่ายค่าน้ำค้าไฟ ค่าเเอร์ รวมถึงองค์รัก ค่าเครื่องบิน เฮลิคอปเตอร์ ค่ารถยนต์…ฯลฯ อื่นๆอีกมากมายจากภาษีปชช.ให้กับพวกเจ้า ผู้เห็นเเก่ตัวเเละไร้ยางอายเหล่านี้

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=UUeSKbGqOF0Rqka0XPgvMxfQ

๗.เพราะว่ากษัตริย์ภูมิพลได้รับการคัดเลือกให้เป็นกษัตริย์ที่รวยที่สุดในโลก เเต่ในขณะเดียวกัน เด็กน้อยส่วนใหญ่ในวัยเรียนทั่วประเทศ ยังต้องมาทำงานเป็นขอทาน หรือขายพวงมาลัยตามถนนต่างๆในกทม. เพื่อช่วยเหลือครอบครัวที่ยากจน

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DeSVAm-Tt4

๘.ระบบการศึกษาไทยโดยเฉพาะอย่างยิ่งในหนังสือเรียน มีการโกหกเหี่ยวกับความเห็นต่างๆของโลกในเรื่องปชต.เเละกษัตริย์ไทย

๙.เจ้าไทยหรือเครือข่ายเจ้าทั้งหลาย โกหกต่อสื่อมวลชนในประเทศไทยเเละในตปท.ว่า..ประเทศไทยปกครองโดยระบอบปชต. เเต่ที่จริงเเล้ว คำว่า อันมีระบอบกษัตริย์เป็นประมุข หรือพูดง่ายๆ มันก็คือ ระบอบสมบูรณาญาสิทธิราช หรือ ราชาธิปไตยนั่นเองนั่นล่ะ

ยกเว้นเเต่ว่ากษัตริย์องค์ปัจจุบันไม่ต้องรับผิดชอบความทุกข์ความสุขของประชาชนชาวไทยเเต่อย่างใด เเต่อำนาจทุกอย่างตกในมือของภูมิพลเพียงเเค่คนเดียว กรุณาดูลิ้งค์ข้างต้นที่เเปะมาให้

http://www.asianlii.org/th/legis/const/2007/1.html#C02

๑๐. สื่อวลชนในไทยเเละในตปท.ต่างเรียกกษัตริย์ว่าเป็นที่รักของปชช.ทุกคนทั่วประเทศ …เเต่พวกเขาลืมบอกไปว่าในประเทศไทย

มีกฎหมายฉบับหนึ่งที่เรียกว่ากฎหมายหมิ่นที่ปกป้องกษัตริย์ไม่ให้มีใครวิพากวิจารณ์ได้…ถึงเเม้ว่าการวิจารณ์นั้นจะตั้งอยู่บนรากฐานเเห่งความเป็นจริง..งการทำผิดกฎหมายหมิ่นผู้ได้รับโทษจะต้องถูกจองจำถึง๓-๑๕ปี …

กฎหมายนี้ประชาชนชาวไทยทุกคนจะต้องยกย่อง ชื่นชมเเละชมเชยกษัตริย์เเละครอบครัวเพียงเท่านั้น…ดังนั้นเราจะรู้ได้ยังไงว่าคนที่ยกย่องหรือรักกษัตริย์เเละราชวงศ์จะพูดความจริงทั้งหมดหรือ …

เป็นที่น่าเศร้าว่ามีคนไทยในประเทศโดนข้อหามาตรานี้ที่ต้องถูกติดคุกในประเทศไทยจำนวนหลายคน https://thaipoliticalprisoners.wordpress.com/decidedcases/

๑๑.เพราะว่าประเทศต่างๆต่อไปนี้ได้ยกเลิก หรือล้มเจ้าของพวกเขาไปนานเเล้ว

รัฐเซียได้ล้มล้างราชวงศ์นิโครัส ๒ ในปี๑๙๑๗ ( ๙๗ ปีที่เเล้วมา)

ประเทศฝรั่งเศสได้ล้มล้างราชวงศ์ของเขาในปีค.ศ. ๑๗๙๒ ( ๒๒๒ ปีที่ผ่านมา)

ประเทศเยอรมันนีล้มล้างราชวงศ์เขาเมื่อปีค.ศ.๑๙๑๘ ( ๙๖ปีที่ผ่านมาเเล้ว)

สหราชอาณาจักรอังกฤษ กำจัดอำนาจจอร์สที่๖ ในค.ศ.๑๙๕๒ ( ๕๒ปีที่ผ่านมาเเล้ว)

ถึงเเม้ว่าประเทศอังกฤษจะมีควีนอลิซาเบธที่๒ เเต่ท่านเเละครอบครัวไม่มีอำนาจที่จะสามารถมายุ่งวุ่นวายทางการการปกครองของรัฐบาลในประเทศอังกฤษทั้งสิ้น

ประเทศญี่ปุ่นยกเลิกราชวงศ์โชว่าเมื่อปีค.ศ.๑๙๒๖ ( ๘๘ปีที่ผ่านมา) ถึงเเม้ว่าเขาจะมีจักพรรดิอากิฮิโต เเต่ท่านไม่มีอำนาจทางการเมืองใดๆทั้งสิ้น

ประเทศจีนได้ล้มล้างราชวงศ์สุดท้ายของจักพรรดิภูยี ในเมื่อปี ค.ศ๑๙๑๒ ( ๑๐๒ปีที่ผ่านมา)

เเล้วประเทศเพื่อนบ้านของไทยล่ะ…ที่ล้มล้างระบอบกษัติริย์ของเขามีดังนี้ …

เวียดนามได้ล้มล้างราชวงศ์วินในปี๑๙๔๕ ( ๗๐ปีที่ผ่านมา)

พม่าล้มล้างราชวงศ์กงบุญในเมื่อปี ค.ศ.๑๘๘๕ ( ๑๒๙ปีที่ผ่านมา)

เขมรได้กำจัดอำนาจนโรโดม สีหะนุ เมื่อปี ค.ศ. ๒๐๐๔ (๑๐ปีที่ผ่านมา) ถึงเขมรจะมีกษัตริย์ เเต่กษัตริย์ของเขาไม่มีสิทธิ์มายุ่งวุ่นวายทางการเมืองการปกครองใดๆทั้งสิ้น

ประเทศลาวซึ่งพวกเราคนไทยมักจะไปดูถูกดูเเคลนประเทศเขา เขายังสามารถยกเลิกระบอบกษัตริษย์ศรีสว่างวัฒนาในปีค.ศ.๑๙๗๕ ( ๓๙ ปีที่ผ่านมา) เเละตอนนี้ ลาวก็ได้ปกครองในระบบสาธารณะ อันมีประธานาธิบดี เป็นผู้บริการเเละเป็นประมุขของประเทศ เเละมีการเลือกตั้งประธานาธิบดีขึ้นมาใหม่ในทุกๆ๔ปี

มันน่าอับอายไหมล่ะประชาชนชาวไทย ราชการ ทหารตำรวจ …ฯลฯ…คุณโดนเจ้าไทยกับอำมาตย์หลอกลวงมาช้านาน

ประเทศต่างๆที่เจริญเขาได้ก้าวข้ามระบอบกษัตริย์มาอย่างยาวนาน เเต่ในประเทศไทยประชาชนยังเสียเวลามาทะเลาะกันเพียงเเค่เรื่องบ้าๆอย่างนี้ เพียงเพราะเจ้าไทยมีความเเยบยลเเนบเนียนกะล่อนไม่มีที่สิ้นสุด

ข้าพเจ้าอยากจะยกคำพูดของประธานนาธิบดีคนที่๑๖ของสหรัฐอเมริกา ท่าน อับบราฮัม ลินคอร์น ตามคำพูดต่อไปนี้ “ประชาชนทั้งหลายที่อยู่ที่ไหนก็ตาม พวกคุณสามารถที่จะลุกขึ้นสู้หรือต่อต้าน เพื่อที่จะทำให้รัฐบาลปัจจุบันสั่นสะเทือน เเละเเต่งตั้งระบอบการปกครองที่ดีกว่าสำหรับประชาชนในประเทศ …อันนี้เป็นสิทธิ์ที่ชอบธรรมเเละศักสิทธิ์ของประชาชน ที่พวกเราหวังเเละเชื่อว่า จะสามารถปลดเเอกประชาชนเเละอยู่อย่างมีอิสระภาพในโลกใบนี้
” —อับบราฮัม ลินคอร์น

ข้าพเจ้ามีภาระหลายอย่างที่จะต้องทำ เพราะจะต้องเดินทางไปพิพิธภัณฑ์ เเละอนุเสาวรีย์ของประธานาธิบดีลินคอร์น ที่ วอชิงตันดีซี ซึ่งเป็นเมืองที่สวยมาก สหรัฐอเมริกาเป็นประเทศเเห่งอิสระภาพที่เเท้จริงอย่างสมบูรณ์เเบบ





I want more!

22 06 2014

One of the major complaints made by red shirts in their campaigns for elections in the 2008 to 2010 period was that the amart was a powerful group that defended the status quo and refused to provide any political openings for those who wanted more representation of their interests.

pyramidThe amart was never particularly well defined. It was the elite, the royalist elite, the network monarchy, Sino-Thai tycoons and so on. When rhetorical push came to political push, sometimes the links between the (Sino-Thai) monarchy and Sino-Thai capitalists were made, and there were attacks on corporations such as the Bangkok Bank.

More recently, when Suthep Thaugsuban’s anti-democrats were on the streets, there were several articles that made connections between him, his movement and tycoons. While Suthep may have attacked nepotism and cronyism that he alleged were features of Thaksin Shinawatra’s clan, it is evident that Suthep was doing the work of big clans and networks that had greater longevity than Thaksin’s lot.

There have been various mappings of the group known as the Sino-Thai business class and its networks.

The Sino-Thai rich have long been required to demonstrate their political loyalty by writhing about at te feet of the royals, offering them buckets of money and swathes of land. The royalist Democrat Party also collects loot from the rich and is the tycoons’ preferred party, if they must endure party politics.

Of course, there are various measures of the huge troughs of money that accrue to the amart through its political and economic dominance. The obscene wealth of the royals has also been detailed as well as the huge handouts the monarchy gets from the taxpayer.

Charoen

Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi

Until a recent report at the Bangkok Post, however, we had never seen a listing of landholdings. There, it is the alcohol tycoon Sirivadhanabhakdi family that is listed as owning the most land in Thailand, with 630,000 rai. PPT is never the best with calculations, but we think that’s nearly 101,000 hectares or about 1,000 square kilometers. One might be tempted to observe that that’s a small amount of Thailand’s land area, but it is about the size of the Hong Kong S.A.R.. The family has “a 12,000-rai plot in Cha-am, Phetchaburi province, and a 15,000 rai plot in Bang Ban, Ayutthaya province.”

That beer and whiskey family is followed by the telecoms, shopping mall and hotel-owning tycoons, the Chirathivat family, with 200,000 rai. That family held a prize “10,000-rai plot in Ayutthaya.”

The Crown Property Bureau is said to be fourth, with “just” 30,000 rai. That’s about the same as was reported in 2005. Given that a significant portion of this is in the highest value areas of Bangkok, the returns are pretty chunky.

The report states that there were just “837 individuals and juristic persons [that] had 1,000 rai or more…”. The vast bulk of landowners in Thailand own very small plots. Inequality in incomes is matched by vast inequalities in land ownership.





Updated: Political crisis and the rich

7 06 2014

The 14 June 2014 issue of Forbes lists the 50 richest Thais/Thai families. With all of the political turmoil in Thailand in recent years, most of it claimed or asserted to be in support of the wealthy elite – recall the remarkable Vice clip of rich dipsticks in Ferraris – it might be thought that the wealthiest might have seen a decline in their fortunes. After all, the economy has struggled, several of the richest families kicked in loot to back the anti-democrats, and things just haven’t seemed conducive for the rich to add hugely to their fortunes. So what has happened?

Most years PPT has posted a list of the wealthiest, always noting that the list leaves off the wealthiest family. That’s the “Mahidols,” also known as the royal family. In 2011, the Forbes list was:

  1. Dhanin Chearavanont,  $7.4 billionmoneybags
  2. Yoovidhya family, $5b
  3. Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi,  $4.8b
  4. Chirathivat family, $4.3b
  5. Ratanarak family,  $2.5b
  6. Aloke Lohia,  $2.1b
  7. Bhirombhakdi family,  $2b
  8. Vichai Maleenont,  $1.5b
  9. Isara Vongkusolkit & family,  $1.4b
  10. Praneetsilpa Vacharaphol & family,  $1.05b

The combined wealth of this top 10 was $32.05 billion, still quite a lot less than the royal family’s Crown Property Bureau.

What does the list look like in 2014? With a little adding together of the same families listed twice and lengthening to show changes, it is:

  1. Sirivadhanabhakdi family, $12.9bmoney
  2. Chirathivat family, $12.1b
  3. Dhanin Chearavanont, $11.5b
  4. Yoovidhya family, $9.9b
  5. Ratanarak family, $5.1b
  6. Chaiyawan family, $3.9b
  7. Bhirombhakdi family, $2.8b
  8. Prasert Prasarttong-Osoth, $2.3b
  9. Vichai Maleenont, $1.7b
  10. Shinawatra family, $1.7b
  11. Chatri Sophonpanich, $1.6b
  12. Thirakomen family, $1.5b
  13. Thongma Vijitpongpun, $1.4b
  14. Prayudh Mahagitsiri & family, $1.4b
  15. Keeree Kanjanapas, $1.4b
  16. Bencharongkul & family, $1.3b
  17. Aloke Lohia, $1.2b
  18. Osathanugrah family, $1.2b
  19. Wichai Thongtang, $1.1b
  20. Isara Vongkusolkit & family, $1.1b

Praneetsilpa Vacharaphol & family dropped to No. 25 on the list but increased its wealth to $1.1b. Of the top 10 families in 2011, all but the Vongkusolkit family had increased their wealth, most of them very substantially.

By 2014, the combined wealth of the top 10 on the list had rocketed to $63.9 billion. We have no way of knowing what the current assets of the royals and CPB are at present – they don’t have to provide such trivial details to the public. All we can note is that the wealth of the top 10 is now about double the 2011 assets of the CPB.

The wealth of the Shinawatra family increased 4.25 times between 2011 and 2014, outstripping the growth of the top 10. However, others did well to. The Chirathivat family wealth increase by about 3 times and the Chaiyawan family at about the same rate as the Shinawatra family.

Update: Our writer yesterday has been admonished and, in the spirit of “good order,” was made to stand outside her condo displaying a dangerous 3-fingered salute for neglecting to link this post about the richest with those who were thought to have funded the anti-democrat movement. He is truly sorry.





Anti-monarchy graffiti and royal wealth II

19 10 2013

This post continues PPT’s summary of the academic article “Working Towards the Monarchy and its Discontents: Anti-royal Graffiti in Downtown Bangkok,” that is authored by Serhat Ünaldi of the Department of Southeast Asian Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. It is available (for a fee, free to subscribers or through universities that subscribe) at the Journal of Contemporary Asia.

Our earlier post concentrated on the graffiti, whereas this post is on royal ownership of valuable property. We earlier noted that the article’s analysis of the ownership of the Rajaprasong area was interesting:

The space examined here is a major part of downtown Bangkok and borders the Khlong Saen Saeb canal in the north, Ratchadamri Road in the east, Rama I Road in the south and Phaya Thai Road in the west. Based on land ownership the area can be divided into two. The western part is privately owned by Princess Sirindhorn who, as the landlord, earns the income generated from property rents directly. The eastern section is owned by the Crown Property Bureau (CPB) which manages the assets of the monarchy as an institution but whose generated income is “paid at the King’s pleasure” (p. 8).

As few researchers have ever dared publish on the private assets of the royals, the following bits and pieces from the article deserve attention. The dates are about acquisition/building/registration of the property or company:

An AP Photo

An AP Photo

The land owned by the princess comprises her palace Wang Sra Pathum (completed in 1916) and the sites of the surrounding commercial buildings: the Siam Kempinski Hotel (2010), the Siam Paragon shopping mall (2006), the Siam Center shopping mall (1973), the Siam Car Park (1994), the Siam Tower offices (1998) and the Siam Discovery shopping mall (1997).

 The CPB-owned land encompasses: the Isetan department store (1992), the Centara Grand Hotel (2008), the CentralWorld shopping mall (1989/2006), Zen department store (1989), the Offices at CentralWorld (2005), Chumchon Lang Wat Pathumwanaram (a slum community), Suan Pathumwananurak (an unfinished park) and the Wat Pathum Wanaram school (2007).

The dates are about acquisition/building/registration. There’s more:

… in the Siam-Ratchaprasong area the commercial interests of the monarchy are served not only by income from its properties, for Princess Sirindhorn and King Bhumibol are also major shareholders of the retail company Siam Piwat which operates the Siam shopping malls on Princess Sirindhorn’s land. The king holds 180,000 shares in Siam Piwat and the princess holds 4.32 million shares, most of them acquired from the Ministry of Finance and BankThai (now CIMB Thai Bank) in 2003 and 2005, respectively. This makes the royal family the second biggest shareholder of Siam Piwat. The family thus earns twice: from leasing out land to Siam Piwat and from their shares in the company. The princess could earn an estimated 1.68 billion baht (US$52.5 million) in annual rents from the mall and hotel operators in the “Siam” area, calculated on the basis of recent estimates of land prices in downtown Bangkok of 600 million baht per rai (1,600 m2), a total plot size of approximately 70 rai and a policy – followed by the CPB next door (Grossman 2011, 297) – of raising annual rents of 4% of a property’s market value. Moreover, in 2010, Sirindhorn’s share of Siam Piwat’s net income amounted to 145 million baht (US$4.7 million) or almost a quarter of the company’s total net income attributable to shareholders for that year.5 Siam Piwat itself subleases part of the land to the Siam Kempinski Hotel. The Siam Kempinski is owned by Kempin Siam, a joint venture between the Bahrain-based Al Manar capital group (49%), the Thai property developer Natural Park (35%) and Royal Wealth (16%) which, again, is co-owned by Al Manar and CPB Equity, a holding company which looks after the share dealings of the CPB. Interestingly, by setting up the aptly named company Royal Wealth together with Al Manar, the CPB helped the foreign capital group to increase its shareholding in Kempin Siam beyond 49% to become a majority shareholder in a Thai company. Moreover, the CPB not only co-owns Siam Kempinski, it also owns 86% of the shares of Kempinski Hotels S.A., a world-wide operating luxury hotel chain which manages the Siam Kempinski. In the mid-1990s the Dusit Thani Hotel Group and Siam Commercial Bank (SCB, of which the CPB holds a dominating 23.69%) invested in the ailing Kempinski group. After the 1997 financial crisis the CPB bought the shares from Dusit Thani and the SCB to “face-lift” the bank’s portfolio.

On the political economy of royalism and consumption, the author observes:

Royals often frequent the “Siam” malls whose appeal, through physical proximity to a royal palace, can hardly be replicated elsewhere in the city. Therefore, business success in the Siam area partly depends on the continued power of the monarchy’s sacred charisma. But while the monarchy lends its barami to the shopping malls it also symbiotically profits from them – and not just in terms of income generated from rents and shareholdings. Subtle references to the royal ties of the malls link the monarchy with the material progress of the Bangkok populace, yet carefully avoiding revealing the royal family’s direct financial interest in these commercial operations. As a place of conspicuous consumption, of Louis Vuitton and Ferrari, and as a “royal” mall, Siam Paragon is a double source of social distinction.

All-in-all, this is one academic paper that deserves broad attention and careful reading.





Sufficient nonsense

16 10 2013

Sanitsuda Ekachai is an editor at the Bangkok Post specializing in Buddhist issues and rural development and NGOs material. We were somewhat surprised that she has been beating the sufficiency economy drum again.

PPT had thought that the sufficiency economy discourse had died an appropriate death when it was linked with the geriatric royalist regime that the 2006 coup put in place. After all, the royalist Democrat Party gave it little attention, except in ideological terms, when they were hoisted to power by military and palace. So while it was put in development plans – does anyone look at these any more? – and posterior polishing conferences were organized bringing together well-paid luminaries with no particular knowledge of this “philosophy,” it seemed, well, forgotten.

While Sanitsuda knows it is an “empty mantra,” she seems to think that it needs resurrection in the fight against rapacious capitalists.Now which is the largest capitalist conglomerate in Thailand? Oh, yes, the (never sufficiency) monarchy…. Yet it was this line that got our attention:

The sufficiency economy concept initiated by His Majesty the King is lauded worldwide because it addresses the much-needed moral dimension of development and capitalism.

Lauded the world over? Really? We did a bit of a search, and apart from Thai royal pandering sites, there isn’t much. The best of these we saw was at a UNESCO site, where this was the blurb:

UNESCO Future Lecture – Towards a Sufficiency Economy: a New Ethical Paradigm for Sustainability: In Homage to the Philosophy on “Sufficiency Economy” by His Majesty the King Bhumibol Adulyadej

All of this event was Thai officials using taxpayer funds to promote the monarchy. A bit of an expensive yawn. There are some blogs that link to the notion and competing claims for ownership of the idea, For example,

Samuel Alexander is a founder of the Simplicity Institute, a group … making some of the most interesting contributions to the post-growth debate at the moment. In particular, their work has focused on the ‘sufficiency economy’….

Alexander is a new kid on the sufficiency/simplicity block, but there’s little evidence that  the king’s idea – if it was his – is being lauded worldwide.

The question is: why make this stuff up and publish it in a newspaper? To be honest, we can’t think of a single reason why a serious journalist would do this.








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