Taxpayers squeezed

13 07 2017

The royals and the military are in cahoots in ripping off the Thai taxpayer.

The military is the biggest spender at present. The most recent bit of kit added to the ever-expanding list of big-ticket item for the military is a flight of Korean jets. That follows submarines, tanks, helicopters and armored personal carriers. In total, the bill under the current military dictatorship is is tens of billions of dollars.

The royals aren’t spending that much, but it is the wealthiest royal family in the world, according to Forbes. It is also dragging in hundreds of millions of baht each year from state coffers. Think of the two jets the king uses, dozens of expensive cars, his many residences, his jail, pets, girlfriends, antiques, security, and far more. It is far more than a gravy train.

Then there’s the other members of the family, each sucking at the taxpayer’s teat. One of the king’s daughters has been bathed in money for all of her foibles and fancies. The latest report on her gives a brief view into the lifestyle of this selfish royal:

If there were a prize for most enthusiastic fashionista on this list, the Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana of Thailand would undoubtedly get the title. As it is, she’s been crowned Most Stylish Princess In The World instead. A regular on the front row at couture, a designer in her own right (she showed in Paris a few seasons ago) and with a wardrobe that boasts pieces by Chanel, Balmain and Hermes, shrinking violet and modest style maven she is not. Unafraid to experiment with more out there, non-princessy looks – including exaggerated shoulders, leather and tuxedos – she’s definitely changing the face of modern royal fashion.

Taxpayers screwed again.





The junta and that tower

29 06 2017

When we posted on the junta’s proposed erection of a giant tower on prime real estate, we could smell rotting fish. No bidding, no transparency, claims of “public good,” and then the declaration that it all had something to do with the deceased king suggested – no, shouted – that there was funny business.

The Nation reports that corruption alarm bells are ringing. And they should be.

Assistant junta spokesman Colonel Atisit Chaiyanuwat was the one who “disclosed that the Cabinet had exempted the project from bidding to speed up the project. ” Recall that yesterday the claim was lack of interest from construction firms.

The this same Atisit said “private investors would fund the tower project.” Really? Atisit also “backtracked from his earlier statement that the 459-metre-high tower would cost Bt7.6 billion, bringing that figure down to Bt4.6 billion.” Wow, a discount because no one wants to build it – they aren’t interested…. In other words, this is a mixture of buffalo manure and rotting fish.

Not deterred by contradiction and spin, Atisit also “said the project only needed Cabinet approval because it would be developed on a plot of land belonging to the Finance Ministry’s Treasury Department.” The idea being that the Treasury Department can do what it likes? And the poor taxpayer just gets stiffed again?

Located in Bangkok’s Klong San district, the plot is located on the Chao Phraya River, and is one of the most expensive parts of the city. Prices for land are well into the millions of baht per square meter.  The public purse, though, will reap a glorious 198 million baht in rent, over 30 years. That’s 6.6 million baht a year. Wow, what a deal! We wonder if the taxpayer is going to also get a few glass beads and other trinkets.

The Bangkok Post adds some important information about the deal that reveals quite a lot more.

For a start, it says income over 30 years for the Treasury will be only 70 million baht. And that’s from the director-general Patchara Anuntasilpa of the department.

Then there’s this tidbit:

Registered in 2014, the Bangkok Observation Tower Foundation was originally chaired by Visit Malaisirirat, CEO of Magnolia Quality Development Corporation Co, the property development arm of Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group. The position was later taken over by former Finance Minister Panas Simasathien.

The foundation’s directors include representatives from Siam Piwat Co, the operator of Siam Center and Siam Discovery.

Meanwhile, Magnolia, Siam Piwat and CP group are the joint developer of Iconsiam, a mixed-use project by the Chao Phraya River scheduled to launch by the end of this year. The project is next to the planned tower. In the promotional material of Iconsiam released in April, it wrote, “prepare for the 7th Wonder of ICONSIAM. An Iconic Landmark that will be a symbol of national pride,” without elaboration.

We all know who CP is. They are on top of Thailand’s non-royal rich list year after year, this year worth more than $21 billion. But what of Siam Piwat? For the answer, we will send readers to a 2013 post on royal wealth. Bingo!

Yes, it is yet another royal money maker. One source calculates that Princess Sirindhorn earns more than $50 million a year from Siam Piwat and the land in the area around her palace.

We guess that the next junta task will be to ban comment on its erection because that would be lese majeste and sedition, preventing slippery deals that make the royals wealthier still. And we still reckon that there must be some generals lurking behind the scenes gathering up the change that falls from the royal pockets.





Keeping royals rich

27 01 2017

Khaosod reports that The Dictator’s wife made a mistake.*

Somehow or other The Dic’s junta managed to pass an Inheritance Tax Act and someone forgot to exempt the royals.

Heads could have been on the block!

But it has all been sorted out. A new regulation has been published in the Royal Gazette that “exempts top members of the royal family from paying inheritance tax.”

For good measure, its been made retrospective so the fabulously wealthy royals won’t have to pay a 5 percent tax.

Phew! Lucky they worked that out, especially as the old king died in late 2016. What a cock-up that would have been!

Sure, the junta did say that it brought in the “inheritance tax … as a means of reducing economic inequality in the country,” but they didn’t really mean it to apply to the exalted ones.

They are great and they are good, so they deserve all the money they can lay their hands on.

We assume that the Dictator has sorted out his wife’s mistake.*

*We allude to an episode of Fawlty Towers, The Wedding Party:

basil





Can the Prince no longer afford shirt?

21 07 2016

We are indebted to Andrew MacGregor Marshall’s Facebook page for drawing attention to a curious Bild article from Germany. It is about Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and his current wife/girlfriend and a Thai International flight. We have translated using Google Translate and include only two of the pictures in the Bild story so the output might be a little off in places.

Readers will see odd images of the prince, apparently heavily tattooed, carrying a poodle and dressed in strange clothes.

Hi, Thai Thai!

Can the Thai-Prince no longer afford shirt?

Tattooed prince

At attention! The crew of the “Royal Thai Airways” Salutes Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and his mistress Suthida

Daring/risque appearance, Highness! Crop Top, eco-flops, poodle “Foo Foo” [long dead; its a new pooch] on the arm – so ended Thailand’s Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn (63) now with his Boeing 737 in Munich. 30 bodyguards with him and luggage.

What is the half-naked prince in Bavaria? Shopping! For ten million euros he bought the Grade II listed “Villa Stolberg” at Lake Starnberg. A gift for his mistress no. 1 Suthida (32)?

The former Thai Airways flight attendant, nicknamed “Nui”, lives in Munich.

Mansion

For around 10 million euros the Prince bought swank “Villa Stolberg”

Thailand’s Crown Prince in Bavaria as the swankiest Royal since Ludwig II († 1886), to the delight of luxury and service sectors. Half of the year he spends here, with shopping and celebrations. Even for his dog “Foo Foo” [see above] he has already given a legendary festival.

In Thailand, the Crown Prince (3 marriages, 7 children) is unpopular. But no word raised. The kingdom has one of the strictest lese majeste laws in the world (up to 15 years in prison!).

King Bhumibol (88) knows about the reputation of his (single) son. It is whispered that he will prevent Vajiralongkorn becoming king. Will it be the crown daughter Maha Chakri (61)? Then the swank-Prince has more time to squander money.

Tattooed prince 1

With poodle and midriff exposed, the Thai Royals get in the chauffeured Mercedes

According to “Forbes” is Bhumibol is worth about 35 billion euros, the richest Royal World. The dissolute life of son Vajiralongkorn is paid from the state coffers.





Taxpayer support to the monarchy

26 04 2016

Over the past few years PPT has collected and posted information derived from the Budget Bureau on the officially declared spending on the monarchy in Thailand (see our 2015 post as an example).

This calculation is that declared as “promoting and protecting the monarchy,” and is in addition to any deals done with individual royals, the Crown Property Bureau and any additional funds that are allocated after budgets are initially drawn up. As far as we know, it does not cover things like funding to the police, military and courts, etc. for hunting lese majeste offenders, putting them through the courts and keeping them in jail.

While we are sure there’s lots more spending on royal stuff hidden away in various budget lines, these estimates from the Budget Bureau can be considered a minimum cost to taxpayers.

In 2016, it seems that the figure is 18 billion baht. That this is an increase over 2015 should not surprise as there have been substantial increases in recent years, under both the Yingluck Shinawatra government and the military junta.

In the graph, we have collected the data we have and expressed it in billions of baht.

The impost on taxpayers has increased 68.2% since 2012.

Money for the richest





Big business, wealth, royal connections and fines

21 03 2016

Big business supported the coup and the junta. It supported notions of anti-corruption, so long as it was elected politicians who were in the firing line. We wonder how it is doing now?

At ThailandBusinessNews it is reported that “top executives and shareholders of five companies listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand for insider trading…”. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) pursued insider trading for the second time in three months “on top managers who have abused their power in publicly traded firms for their own benefit or for their accomplices.”

Insider trading has long been normal in Thailand, as it has been in many Asian bourses and internationally as well.

In December, the SEC hit “four top executives of CP All Plc, Thailand’s biggest convenience store operator, with hefty financial penalties. For more details, see the story at AEC News Today. The company, one of Thailand’s whales and under the Chearavanont family’s Charoen Phokphand Group, ignored the fines and allowed the executives to continue in their positions. CP has long had connections with the palace but has also been wiling to bet on all sides of politics.

Now, the SEC has “fined top executives and shareholders of five companies listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand…”. The report has details on Siam Makro:

It fined Korsak Chairasmisak, chairman of the executive committee, Piyawat Titasattavorakul and Pittaya Jearavisitkul, two vice-chairmen of the executive committee, and Athueck Asvanund, the firm’s chief legal officer, a total of 33.34 million baht for using inside information to buy shares in Siam Makro Plc.

At its website, the company has a 13-page “good corporate governance” document. Its board includes three scions of the Chearavanont family and the chairman of the board is none other than Asa Sarasin, and a board member of royal-dominated companies and other CP companies. Asa retired as secretary-general of the Office of His Majesty’s Principal Private Secretary in 2012, having held the position for 12 years.

Another hit in this bout of insider trading crackdowns is also a business whale:

On Wednesday, the regulator said it had banned Chai Sophonpanich, chairman of Bangkok Insurance Plc (BKI), from being a director at Bangkok Life Assurance (BLA) for three years for his involvement in insider trading. He has also been barred from working in capital markets for the same period. The ban took effect yesterday, but he is not prohibited from working at BKI.

The Criminal Fining Committee has imposed a fine of 500,000 baht on Chai Sophonpanich for disclosing inside information for other persons to purchase shares of Bangkok Insurance Public Company Limited (BKI).

Following a referral from the Stock Exchange of Thailand, the SEC’s further inspection has revealed that Chai, then chairman and chairman of the executive board of directors of BKI, proposed a dividend payment plan for BKI shareholders at the ratio of five existing shares to two dividend shares, on top of the normal dividend payment plan for the operating performance of 2013.

This was material information that would have supported an upward trend of the BKI share price. Chai disclosed such inside information to other persons who purchased BKI shares during 24-25 February 2014 before the information became publicly known on 28 February 2014. Such action was deemed taking an unfair advantage of other people.

The Sophonpanich family has been one of Thailand’s leading business families since the late 1940s. It operates a related family in Hong Kong, involved in banking, politics and other businesses.

Other executives found guilty of insider trading practices by the SEC were:

… Somyos Anantaprayoon, current chairman of WHA Corporation Plc, who was fined 500,000 baht for telling two newspapers — with the articles published on Oct 27, 2014 — that the company was in talks to acquire a listed company worth 50 billion baht, though such information had not yet been made public.

The Criminal Fining Committee has fined Somyos Anantaprayoon for dessiminating news that may have led other persons to understand that the share price of WHA Corporation Plc. (WHA) would rise or fall, and such information had not been disclosed to the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET).

Following a referral from the SET and the SEC’s further inspection, it was found that Somyos, then Chairman, CEO and a major shareholder of WHA, had released news to the public through two media publications issued on 27 October 2014 with the key message that WHA was negotiating a business deal worth approximately 50 billion baht to take over a listed company that had long been established for more than 20 years in the same industry as WHA with a multiple P/E of 10.

His misconduct with regard to the dessimination of facts that had not yet been disclosed to the SET and contained material information that could have influenced investors’ decision making and the price movements of WHA shares being traded on the SET, was in violation of Section 239 and liable to the penalites under Section 296 of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1992. He was imposed a criminal fine of 500,000 baht

He’s one of the founding family of WHA. WHA has a 4-page code of conduct.

Another group hit is the family-controlled Siam Global House, with its boss Witoon Suriyawanakul listed by Forbes as entering Thailand’s richest list in 2013:

… Witoon Suriyawanakul, chairman of the management committee and director of Siam Global House (Global), and three other shareholders, who were given a combined fine of 25.3 million baht for insider trading.

The SEC found that Mr Witoon bought 8.02 million shares and 3.5 million units of warrants of Global from June 29 to Aug 23, 2012 using accounts of people who have a relationship with him in order to take advantage of inside information regarding SCG Distribution’s planned acquisition of Global. The other three shareholders were viewed as accomplices. The acquisition was disclosed to the public on Aug 27, 2012.

The Criminal Fining Committee has imposed a total fine of 25,322,064.39 on four offenders for using insider information to purchase ordinary shares and warrants of Siam Global House Public Company Limited (GLOBAL).

The four offenders are: (1) Witoon Suriyawanakul, (2) Kunnatee Suriyawanakul, (3) Apilas Suriyavanakul, and (4) Kriangkai Suriyawanakul.

All are from the founding family. The deal that was considered insider trading had a connection to the royal-controlled Siam Cement:

Following a referral from the Stock Exchange of Thailand, the SEC’s further investigation has revealed that Witoon and the three other persons in the same group purchased GLOBAL shares and GLOBAL-W warrants and gained benefits from such transactions. Witoon, who was chairman of the management committee of GLOBAL, had the decision making power over the terms and conditions of an agreement between GLOBAL and SCG Distribution Co., Ltd. (SCG), a wholely owned subsidiary of The Siam Cement Public Company Limited, with regard to SCG’s plan to hold at least 30 percent of GLOBAL’s total voting shares by purchasing GLOBAL ordinary capital shares through a private placement.

In this regard, SCG would make a partial offer of GLOBAL shares, which was expected to increase business strength for GLOBAL.

Making the most of being close to the royal center.

As the report makes clear, most of those found guilty “are from the country’s richest families.” The Forbes’ 2015 list of Thailand’s 50 richest has this:

– Mr Chai’s half brother, Chatri Sophonpanich, was ranked 14th with estimated assets of US$1.5 billion (about 52 billion baht)

– Mr Somyos and his then-wife Ms Jareeporn together were ranked 32nd with estimated assets of $765 million

– Witoon Suriyawanakul was ranked 48th and worth $470 million

The Chearavanont family was worth ranked 1st, worth US$14.4 billion.

It seems that the rich never have enough.

By the way, for interest, insider trading in other places seems to sometimes draw bigger penalties: In the US, 11 years in prison and fined a criminal and civil penalty of over $150 million; in the US, $8.8 million fine; and in Australia, more than 8 years in jail.





Populism banned

16 03 2016

The military dictatorship has been throwing plenty of money about to various constituencies, even bringing back Thaksin Shinawatra-era programs. Not that long ago PPT filched this diagram to show the junta’s populist programs:populist-freebies

Of course, with its usual dry wit – better seen as lies – the junta declared that its repressive populism was nothing at all like the policies it was copying from its political enemies.

In a report in the Bangkok Post it is now revealed that the junta has decided to ban populism whenever there is an elected regime put in place: “The cabinet yesterday approved a draft monetary and fiscal bill which includes controls on spending for populist policies. The move is aimed at preventing future fiscal problems and enhancing transparency in the state fiscal budget.”

In other words, bureaucrats, and probably an appointed senate and the constitutional court, will direct what kind of policies political parties can put to voters.

Apparently, the geniuses in the junta think that this will “close a loophole that allows the government to squander cash in the state coffers on any populist purpose, eventually leading to fiscal problems.” Bureaucrats and unelected nabobs will decide what is populist and what damage such a policy might do. In fact, the bill will simply prevent political parties from being truly independent.

We note that the junta and faceless bureaucrats have an “agreement that off-budget expenses for the government should not exceed 5% of the fiscal budget, while the central budget set aside for emergencies and other necessities should not be above 3-4%. Debt repayment, in turn, should be 3% of the fiscal budget.”

Naturally enough, we are not left wondering why the military’s secret budget is not considered subject to bureaucratic control or why the ever expanding royal budget is not kept under control.