Mad monarchists madder still II

30 03 2021

With the resurgence of protests and the regime intensifying its repression, the mad monarchists are increasingly agitated.

While reporting on Patsaravalee “Mind” Tanakitvibulpon and her recent speech targeting the monarchy and other reforms, Thai PBS spends space on enraged monarchists and their bizarre claims.

Mind

Mind

Already facing a lese majeste charge, on 24 March, Mind made three calls on the monarchy, calling on the king to cease interfering “in the military, in politics and in public assets.”

As a result of these reasonable demands of a monarchy meant to be constitutional, Mind probably faces additional lese majeste and other charges. She says she is “bracing for jail…” and vowed to “continue her fight even if she was jailed during the court trial.”

The rabid royalists given space are alleged “scholar” Arnond Sakworawich and political aspirant Warong Dechgitvigrom. It is interesting how each royalist repression of protesters since 2005 has seen a new bunch of royalist spokespersons promoted as the “defenders” of the monarchy.

Arnond claims Mind is “mistaken in alleging the King has ‘his own army’, independent of the Thai armed forces.” His view is that the “King’s Royal Guards were simply transferred from the military and police to form the royal security unit.” He doesn’t explain how it is that this “unit” is under the direct command of the palace or why it was necessary to vastly expand the “royal security unit.”

Arnond’s rebuttal of Mind’s observation of the king’s political interventions – preventing his elder, non-royal, sister stand in an election – seems to confirm Mind’s point. Arnond ignores other interventions, including the king’s demands for constitutional change.

Royalist Arnond’s defense of royal wealth and the king’s assets is just loopy and ignores the king’s own changes to the law that allowed him to take total control of all assets associated with the monarchy, while rolling back decades of legislation.

Warong Dechgitvigrom relied more on the concoction of a conspiracy, a royalist strategy that has been used repeatedly since 2005 to smear and repress.

He claimed Mind is manipulated “by a hidden hand bent on defaming the King with distorted facts.” He declared:

It’s a pity that you didn’t do your homework before reading the statement. The person who prepared the statement for you is so cruel. Without supporting truth, they sacrifice you just to incite people….

This conspiracy claim is repeated and expanded by the maddest of the Bangkok Post’s monarchists, Veera Prateepchaikul. Agreeing with the yellow-shirt conspiracies and cheers the detention without bail of those accused of lese majeste.

Like Warong, he believes that Mind and other protesters are manipulated and the tools of dedicated anti-monarchists. He pours accelerant on the royalist fire, repeating scuttlebutt that her “demands for reform of the monarchy was allegedly given to her by someone believed to be an anti-monarchist.”

He demeans and diminishes all the young protesters, preferring to believe they are misled and tricked. His claims are a familiar refrain. It was only a few years ago that yellow shirts demeaned red shirts, considering them uneducated buffaloes, led around by the nose, and or paid by Thaksin Shinawatra. Obviously, the kids protesting aren’t “uneducated,” but there is still a search for a political Svengali.

In an attempted political assassination, Veera names and seeks to shame “Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary-general of the Progressive Movement Group and anti-monarchist lecturer at Thammasat University…”. Veera decries Piyabutr’s view that the protesters are agents of change, who “will not change their mind on the monarchy” by jailing them.

Veera peddles more royalist tripe by questioning why several academics have been willing to post bail for those jailed.

Veera states that “many students have been exploited,” and claims that Mind is manipulated: “What if she is thrown behind bars for reading the script in question while the actual writer remains scot free? That is unfair, cold-blooded and sheer exploitation of a young mind.”

Yellow shirt ideology is conspiratorial and displays a remarkable penchant for patriarchal nonsense, diminishing the views and actions over many months of demonstration. Clearly, the students understand that reform to the monarchy comes with a diminution of patriarchy and other hierarchies that keep old royalist men in charge of the country.





(Not) Taxing the crown

14 02 2021

One of the points of the announcement that he king was taking full and formal control of all crown wealth was that he’d pay tax. In its “explanation” of the secretly legislated changes the king had the junta make in 2017, it is stated:

Regarding the liability for duties and taxation, the Crown Property Act, BE 2560 (2017) stipulates that matters related to either liability for, or exemption from, duties and taxation shall be determined and regulated by the specific legislations covering the relevant types or duties and taxes. Such provisions differ from those under the previous statute which exempted the Crown Property Bureau completely from all types or duties and taxes. In implementing the new Statute, His Majesty made the decision to make the “Crown Property Assets” be subject to the same duties and taxation as would assets belonging to any other citizen Therefore, if the assets were to remain in the name of the Office of the Crown Property Bureau, they would have retained the exempted status under the current taxation laws since the Office of the Crown Property Bureau is designated – still, as an entity exempted from duties and taxation. “Crown Property Assets” are now given a status on par with that of any other legal person. The removal of exempted status was accomplished in line with His Majesty’s Wishes.

Like much that emanates from the palace, there seems clarity in this but there’s also plenty of ambiguity if the details are dissected. Of course, the question of whether the king actually pays taxes is opaque and one of the reasons why protesters have been calling for reform.

In a recent discussion at Prachatai, and attempt is made to cut through the secrecy, smoke, and mirrors. The result is an enlightening article, well worth reading, but the result is that the taxpaying public still doesn’t know if the king pays tax, on what, and how much. The report makes this statement:

the Crown Property Bureau still has not disclosed its annual report on its website, as was previously done during King Rama IX’s reign, so we do not have any information on the income of the Crown Property Bureau, especially on the transfer of real estate which used to be crown property and public property to become the property of King Rama X to be administrated, preserved, managed, and operated all at the King’s discretion.

That’s only partly true. There was an annual report for a few short years, but it contained no financial information. Now, however, the reporting on the CPB is missing but the financial information has always been kept a secret.

With regard to the billions of baht of taxpayer funds shoveled into the royal family and palace – some detailed by Prachatai – again, there’s no clarity on the taxation status.

For real estate, the report states that the 2019 Land and Building Tax Act sets a “rate of 0.01-3% of the estimate property value, depending on the category of land/building.” However, a Ministerial Regulation on Property Exempted from Land and Building Tax in 2019 exempted crown property and the property of members of the royal family for the following purposes:

(a) for use in governmental affairs, royal affairs or any royal agencies

(b) for use in any other affairs of the King and royal family members or for public benefit

(c) for use as a religious place of any religion to perform religious activities or public activities or as the residence of monks, priests or clergymen of any religion, or as a shrine.

The Prachatai assessment concludes:

The information given here cover only the facts and laws that are common knowledge, and the interpretation is based on the author’s understanding. It is difficult to confirm whether tax is collected as interpreted in this article or not. Ever since the changes in the administration of the Royal Offices and crown property there has been no clear explanation on the newly amended laws, and details about the crown property are not disclosed to the public. These questions therefore remain in society, as long as the people do not have access to sufficient information to answer them.

In other words, the king’s personal grab of crown property was propagandized as him paying tax. The result is less clarity than ever.





Royal wealth extraction

19 01 2021

Readers may recall the demonstration at the Siam Commercial Bank, where the king is the largest shareholder, when activists “demanded public oversight of … Vajiralongkorn’s vast wealth…”. In our view, the king’s control of huge wealth is as significant as his political meddling. And, perhaps more important than his personal wealth, and how he and his forebears got it, is the huge piles of taxpayer’s money that “supports” the monarchy.

Helpfully, and in the current circumstances, bravely, Prachatai has posted on these topics.

On the money sucked from the taxpayer, the Prachatai report states:

In summary, in 2021, various agencies allocated budget related to the monarchy, all of which total approximately 37.228 billion baht or 1.12% of all the national budget (3.3 trillion baht), divided into 20.653 billion baht in direct expenses and 16.575 billion baht in indirect expenses.

That’s a lot of money – more than $1 billion! Helpfully, there’s considerable detail, all extracted from the Budget Bureau’s reports. The report states that “many of the projects among the indirect expenses are for the public benefit.” We are not convinced. After all, money sucked out of the public purse to glorify the monarch is money lost to other possibly good purposes.

The Royal Offices alone get more than 8.98 billion baht in 2021, up almost 17% over 2020. Meanwhile, the Thai economy languishes and millions are struggling to make ends meet. By 2024, this budget is forecast to increase to almost 10.7 billion baht by 2024, up almost 40% over 2020.

We at PPT also wonder if the figures mined by Prachatai are complete. For example, does it include the budget for the hugely expensive royal projects? Our feeling is that the monarchy east far more taxpayer wealth than we are seeing here.

Further information on how the monarchy accumulated its wealth is covered in a second Prachatai report. This is mainly focused on historical wealth. We guess it is too difficult and potentially dangerous to add up Vajiralongkorn’s many property grabs.





Royalists, academics and palace propaganda

10 01 2021

A couple of days ago we posted on advice to protesters. That advice was well-meaning. At the Asia Times Online, however, academic Michael Nelson of the Asian Governance Foundation, writes the protesters off: “[Gen] Prayut [Chan-ocha] does not seem to be in danger. The royal-military alliance seems to be unassailable…”. He adds: “The protesters, though big on Facebook, also have little backing in the population. And now, the government is getting tough with them…”.

That seems somewhat premature, even if the regime has the “benefit” of a virus uptick and can use the emergency decree to good ill effect. In any case, as far as support is concerned, we recall the Suan Dusit survey in late October that seemed rather supportive of the protesters. Things might have changed given the all out efforts by the regime and palace, but we think the demonstrators have had considerable support.

Another academic is getting into the fray to support the regime and palace. At the regime’s website Thailand Today, pure royalist propaganda by “Prof. Dr. Chartchai Na Chiang Mai” is translated from The Manager Online. For obvious reasons, the regime loves the work of this royalist propagandist who tests the boundaries of the term “academic.” But, then, Chartchai is “an academic at the National Institute of Development Administration or NIDA,” a place that has played an inglorious role in recent politics and where “academic” seems a loose term used to describe a person associated with NIDA.

Royalists ideologues posing as academics have been well rewarded. Chartchai is no different. His rewards have included appointment to the junta’s Constitution Drafting Committee and its National Reform Council. In these positions, he opposed any notion of an elected prime minister and supported the junta’s propaganda activities on its constitution. He has also been a propagandist for “sufficiency economy,” a “theory” lacking much academic credibility but which is religiously promoted as one of the “legacies” of the dead king.

Self-crowned

His latest effort is a doozy. Published in November 2020, “Resolute and Adaptive: The Monarchy in the Modern Age” is a defense of a neo-feudal monarchy. It seeks to dull the calls for reform by claiming that King Vajiralongkorn “has already been reforming the institution of the monarchy to adapt in a modern context, even before protesters were making their demands for reform. Moreover, His Majesty’s approach has always been people-centred.”

This sounds remarkably like the royalist defense made of King Prajadhipok after the 1932 revolution, suggesting he was thinking about granting a constitution before the People’s Party, a claim still made by royalist and lazy historians. In the current epoch, if the king is “reforming,” then the calls for reform are redundant.

Reflecting the good king-bad king narrative, in a remarkable contortion, Chartchai warns that the bad king should not be compared with his father. He declares this “unjust” and “unfair.” The bad king is “preserving those achievements, but to also work with all sectors of the country to extend these accomplishments even further, as he carries his father’s legacy onwards into the future.”

That’s exactly the palace’s propaganda position on Vajiralongkorn.

How has Vajiralongkorn “sought to reform the monarchy”? Readers may be surprised to learn that the king has been “adjusting royal protocol by closing the gap between himself and his subjects, allowing public meetings and photo-taking in a more relaxed manner which differs greatly from past practices.”

Of course, this is recent and the palace’s propaganda response to the demonstrations. Before that, the king worked to distance the palace from people. Not least, the king lived thousands of kilometers from Thailand.

A second reform – again a surprising construction for propaganda purposes – is the “reform of the Crown Property Bureau…”. The king officially taking personal control of all royal wealth and property through new, secretly considered, laws demanded by the king is portrayed as intending to “demystify the once conservative and disorderly system the King himself found to be corrupt. The Bureau is now made more transparent to the public and prevents any further exploitation of the old system.”

There’s been no public discussion of this CPB corruption and nor is there any evidence that there is any transparency at all. In our research, the opposite is true.

We are told that the king’s property acquisitions were also about corruption and “public use.” The examples provided are the “Royal Turf Club of Thailand under the Royal Patronage” and military bases in Bangkok.

The Royal Turf Club was a which was a “gathering place for dubious but influential people” and has been “reclaimed as part of the royal assets is in the process of being developed into a park for public recreational activities.” That “public use” is a recent decision, with the palace responding to criticism. Such plans were never mentioned when the century old racecourse was taken. It is also “revealed” that the military bases that now belong personally to the king will be for public purposes. Really? Other “public places” in the expanded palace precinct have been removed from public use: the zoo, parliament house, and Sanam Luang are but three examples. We can only wait to see what really happens in this now huge palace area.

Chartchai also discusses how “[r]Reform of the Rajabhat University system or the Thai form of teachers’ college, has also slowly and steadily been taking place, with the King’s Privy Counsellor overseeing the progress.”

Now we understand why all the Rajabhats have been showering the queen with honorary doctorates. The idea that this king – who was always a poor student and didn’t graduate from anything – knows anything about education is bizarre. How the king gained control of the 38 Rajabhats is not explained.

What does this mean for the protests? The implication is, like 1932, those calling for reform are misguided. Like his father, the king “is the cultural institution and must remain above politics and under the constitution.” Is he under the constitution when he can have the regime change it on a whim and for personal gain?

Chartchai “explains” that “the monarchy is constantly adjusting itself…”. He goes full-throttle palace propaganda declaring the monarchy a bastion of “independence, cultural traditions, and soul of the nation, is adjusting and fine-tuning itself for the benefit of the people.” As such, Thais should ignore the calls for reform and properly “understand, lend support and cooperation so that the monarchy and Thai people sustainably and happily co-exist.”

For an antidote to this base royalist propaganda, readers might enjoy a recent and amply illustrated story at The Sun, a British tabloid, which recounts most of Vajiralongkorn’s eccentric and erratic activities.





Protecting princess property

27 12 2020

PPT noticed a recent Thai PBS report that had “Siam Paragon, one of Bangkok’s largest shopping malls,” complaining about “political activist groups” making use of “the mall’s property for political activities…”.

In a statement from the “management of the mall,” it is maintained that the privately-held company “has never consented or accepted the use of its property by any political activist groups.”

Siam Paragon’s management babbled about “investments” in “equipment … to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among customers and staff alike.”

As far as we know, no virus transmission has been attributed to any mass rally, so we assume this line is simply buffalo manure.

The report adds that “Siam Paragon is just a stone’s throw from Pathumwan skywalk, which has been a favorite rallying point for political activities, most recently by the Ratsadon Group. The Pathumwan intersection was also the site of a mass protest by the Group in mid-October.”

We recall that one of the charges against democracy protesters in 2018 was “illegal public assembly within a 150-metre radius of a Royal palace…”, meaning the Sra Pathum Palace, ” the official residence of Princess Sirindhorn…”.

Siam Paragon is royal majority owned through Siam Piwat Co, which is also the operator of the Siam Center and Iconsiam. As we understand it, Siam Paragon is on land owned by the princess. An academic once calculated that Princess Sirindhorn’s shareholding in Siam Piwat provided more than US$55 million per year from her property in the Siam-Ratchaprasong alone.

At the present time, royals are everywhere reasserting their power, wealth and personal preferences.





The king’s pile

13 10 2020

The king and his wealth is now on the international agenda.

Two really excellent stories have appeared today and two highly-regarded outlets:

Los Angeles Times: The world’s richest king, his mysterious fortune and the protesters who want answers by Shashank Bengali.

Financial Times: The king’s money: Thailand divided over the $40bn question by John Reed.

Both articles are free to access, so read them before the regime blocks them.





The king and his antics II

11 09 2020

Thailand’s king and his antics in Europe have attracted plenty of unfavorable comment, The most recent is from The Statesman. While we think that most of PPT’s readers will know all of the facts and antics recounted, we consider the article by Francis Pike, with our added illustrations, worth reproducing in full:

The depraved rule of Thailand’s Caligula king
Protestors are risking it all to take on the monarchy

Fu Fu

The Roman emperor Caligula was renowned for his extravagance, capricious cruelty, sexual deviancy and temper bordering on insanity. Most famously, before he was assassinated, he planned to appoint his favourite horse as a consul. This is probably a legend. But King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who ascended the Thai throne in 2016, adopted Caligula’s playbook for real. In 2009 the then crown prince promoted his pet miniature poodle Foo Foo to the post of air chief marshal, in which capacity he served until his death in 2015, aged 17. Foo Foo’s cremation was preceded by four days of formal Buddhist mourning.

The poodle first came to the attention of the general public when a video was released showing him eating cake from the hand of Vajiralongkorn’s third wife, Princess Srirasmi, while she cavorted in a G-string at the dog’s lavish birthday party. At a 2009 gala dinner in honour of Vajiralongkorn, Foo Foo was kitted out head to paw in black-tie dress and, according to a WikiLeaks-revealed account by US ambassador, Ralph Boyce, ‘jumped onto the head table and began lapping from the guests’ water glasses, including my own’.

When on parade the new king wears crisp, snowy-white, gold-braided, Ruritanian military uniforms or elaborate Thai regalia that make him look like a Buddhist temple in human form. In downtime his dress code can at best be described as kinky: trainers and low-hung jeans paired with the skimpiest of crop tops. His back and arms are festooned with possibly fake tattoos.

Vajiralongkorn is famously lecherous. Indeed, in his youth, Thai aristocrats would pack off their daughters to Europe to get them out of his clutches. Happily for Bangkok’s elite, the crown prince’s tastes, after his divorce from his first wife, an aristocratic relative of his mother, were consistently low-rent. His second wife was an aspiring actress, albeit of the soft-porn variety.

Prince, and kids in earlier times

The marriage did not last. After Vajiralongkorn put posters all over the palace accusing her of adultery, she fled to London and later to the US with her children — apart from a daughter who was kidnapped and brought back to Bangkok. The daughter was elevated to the rank of princess, but her mother and brothers had their diplomatic passports and royal titles revoked by the crown prince. The Thai public was left horrified by his treatment of his family.

Another marriage followed in 2001, to the aforementioned Srirasmi, though it was not publicly announced until 2005 when the crown prince, by then in his early fifties, declared it was time to settle down. How-ever, in 2014 he stripped his wife of her royal titles because of her relatives’ corruption. Srirasmi’s parents were jailed for two and a half years each for lèse-majesté.

Sineenat

Five years later, on 1 May last year, and just three days before his official coronation, Vajiralongkorn married for the fourth time, to Suthida Tidjai, a former Thai Airways hostess, giving her the title of Queen Consort. The Thai people were dumbfounded when just two months later, the new king named his mistress, Major General Sineenat Wongvajira-pakdi, as his Royal Noble Consort; it was the first time this form of address had been used for more than 100 years. The new relationship lasted three months. On 21 October, Sineenat was stripped of all her titles and disappeared from public view, supposedly for being disrespectful to the queen.

The king’s extravagance is no less remarkable than his private life. A monarchy that was impoverished in the postwar period had, by some estimates, increased its wealth to between $40 billion and $60 billion by last year. Most of the wealth resides in land; ownership of some four square miles of central Bangkok makes the Thai monarchy the world’s wealthiest by a large margin. Overseas holdings include a major stake in the Kempinski hotel group.* Indeed, for years Vajiralongkorn has spent months on end at the Munich Kempinski with his harem and servants. In addition, he owns a mansion on Lake Starnberg to the southwest of Munich. In spite of his huge allowances as crown prince, affording him ownership of two Boeing 737s, it is thought that he had to resort to begging funds from the then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to cover his gambling debts.

Why do King Vajiralongkorn’s private shenanigans matter? Royal families throughout Europe have long weathered sexual and financial scandals. Juan Carlos may have had to step down as king and go into exile, but the Spanish monarchy has survived. So too has the Belgian monarchy after the former King Albert II admitted to a love child. There is no suggestion that Prince Andrew, cherubic by comparison with King Vajiralongkorn, will bring down the British royals because of the Epstein imbroglio. But the key difference is that, unlike Thailand, all those are constitutional monarchies.

Bhumibol and Ananda

In Thailand the monarchy is integral to the country’s real power structures. This was a 70-year legacy of Vajiralongkorn’s father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Bhumibol’s reign started under a cloud following the killing of his 20-year-old predecessor, King Ananda Mahidol, by a single shot to the head with a Colt .45 pistol. After a questionable trial two servants were executed for the murder, though it is widely suspected that the king was accidently shot by Bhumibol, his brother. For the first decade of his rule King Bhumibol was entirely powerless and lived under the rule of the quasi-dictator Field Marshal Phibunsongkhram, who, during the second world war, had allied Thailand with the Axis powers.

Bhumibol, Sirikit, Prem

But gradually, as Thailand inched towards a democracy, Bhumibol won the adoration of the Thai people thanks to his moderating influence and good works, such as paying for medical facilities for the poor. His political power increased. In 1952 he bravely refused to preside over ceremonies for Phibunsongkhram’s new militaristic constitution.** However, Bhumibol’s finest moment came in 1981 when he faced down the ‘April Fools’ Day’ coup d’état by fleeing Bangkok and raising the Thai royal standard at the military base at Khorat, where General Prem emerged as the new military strongman. There followed what is now known as the ‘Network Monarchy’ era, a coalition of military interests and those of the financial and industrial elite based in Bangkok. As a former American deputy-president at Thailand’s Bank of Asia noted: ‘Thai politics has been about dividing up the pie among the elite.’ At the centre of the web stood the Thai monarchy. Elected democratic institutions remained largely an adornment to this oligarchic structure.

In 2001 a business chancer and mobile phone billionaire, Thaksin Shinawatra, later the owner of Manchester City FC, swept to power with his Thai Rak Thai party promising a populist agenda including reform of health and education. Much to the chagrin of the ‘Network Monarchy’, Thaksin won a sweeping electoral victory again in 2005. Bhumibol, who loathed Thaksin, gave tacit support to the coup that first removed him and then sent him into exile two years later. Until his death in 2016, Bhumibol thwarted, either by military or judicial coup, the democratic will of the Thai people, who since 2001 have consistently voted into power Thaksin-backed parties and their proxy leaders. Bhumibol’s historic reputation, albeit tarnished by his thwarting of the democratic will, became an important pillar of resistance to Thaksin’s outsiders. After Bhumibol’s death in 2016, the critical power of the monarchy was left in the hands of his dissolute playboy son.

Will King Vajiralongkorn redeem his dire youthful reputation and do a ‘Prince Hal’, moving to the path of royal righteousness? The signs so far are not good. Just over a week ago, the Royal Noble Consort Sineenat suddenly re-emerged with no information other than an inventive Royal Gazette announcement that ‘It will be regarded that she was never stripped of the royal consort title, military ranks and royal decorations’.

More important than this saga of extra-judicial fiat, the king intervened in the drafting of a new constitution by the military junta in 2017 to grant himself new powers over the appointment of regents. In addition, the new constitution asserted the king’s rights to ‘manage’ during any constitutional crisis. Given that Thailand has had 17 military coups since 1932, this is not trivial. Two crack regiments have also been put under his direct control. As the political exile and professor at Kyoto University Pavin Chachavalpongpun has noted, the king ‘is basically running the country now, though he’s not doing that like his father did through moral authority. He’s using fear to solidify his position and to take command.’

It is therefore interesting that in the past month, demonstrations of up to 10,000 people have called for the powers of the king to be curtailed. Protestors have defied Thailand’s draconian lèse-majesté laws — which can incur up to 15 years’ imprisonment — to chant ‘Down with feudalism’. It remains to be seen whether the protests are a straw in the wind of future political instability. The new king’s attempt to transition from a monarch with influence within the ‘Network Monarchy’ to a monarch who rules is fraught with danger. But at least Vajiralongkorn is unlikely to come to Caligula’s sticky end; the king has a ready-made home for an exile in his beloved Bavaria.

*For discussions that reflect changes in ownership, see here and here.

**The refusal to attend was a fit of pique and self-interest.





Taxpayer billions for the palace

24 08 2020

A report in The Nation deserves (almost) full reproduction:

Amid increasing calls from student activists for reforms to the monarchy, the steep rise in the annual budget for Palace agencies over the years has drawn the attention of netizens.

Reproduced from The Nation

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Progressive Movement and former leader of the disbanded Future Forward Party, said the House committee vetting the national budget bill for fiscal year 2020-21 met on Thursday. The representative from the Budget Bureau spent only two minutes presenting the Palace agencies’ budget without giving much details, so he asked for more explanation.

Thanathorn made the revelation in a Facebook post on Friday.

The annual budget of Palace agencies has been pegged at Bt8.98 billion for the next fiscal year.

Thanathorn is an adviser to the committee and attended the budget scrutiny meeting on Thursday. He took notes and posted the details of the committee’s discussions on the Progressive Movement’s Facebook page on Friday.

Palace agencies have asked for Bt8.98 billion for 2021 fiscal year (October 2020 to September 2021. The amount was up 16.8 per cent from Bt7.68 billion spent in the current fiscal year, compared to a 3.1 per cent rise in the overall national budget, Thanathorn pointed out.

Thanathorn questioned at Thursday’s meeting about the wide gap between estimated and actual spending of Palace agencies from 2018 to 2021.

According to Budget Bureau records, the estimated spending for fiscal 2018 was Bt4.19 billion, but actual spending was 52.5 per cent higher at Bt6.39 billion.

The estimated expenditure for fiscal 2019 was Bt 4.69 billion while actual spending was Bt6.8 billion; the estimate for fiscal 2020 was Bt5.04 billion while actual spending was Bt 7.68 billion, and the estimate for 2021 is Bt5.41 billion, but Palace agencies are seeking Bt8.98 billion.

Viyada Chotrattanasiri, deputy director at the Budget Bureau, explained to Thanathorn that the government had issued an emergency decree last year to transfer security units from the Defence Ministry to Palace supervision, so that added about Bt2 billion to the Palace agencies’ budget in the current fiscal year. Excluding that amount, the budget was actually down by Bt833 million, she noted.

For fiscal 2021, the Defence Ministry had cut its budget by Bt1.3 billion while the budget for personnel of Palace agencies had risen by Bt1.29 billion, she said.

Thanathorn said that he had questioned the increasing budget allocation by the government to Palace agencies, which is on a sharp upward trend until fiscal 2024, with current estimates rising to Bt10.69 billion and the potential of actual spending overshooting the estimate.

He called for a cut in the budget allocation for Palace agencies in line with the overall national budget, saying he was concerned about the fallout of Covid-19 on common people, public debt and dwindling tax revenue.

As of Sunday evening, Thanathorn’s Facebook post on the Palace budget had got over 38,000 likes, 3,800 comments and 15,000 shares….





PixelHELPER still protesting

4 06 2020

German and Thai protesters have again targeted King Vajiralongkorn’s home (Grand Hotel Sonnenbichl) away from home (Tutzing), away from home (Bangkok).

PixelHELPER targeted the hotel late at night a couple of days ago, coinciding with the queen’s birthday. There have been reports in German newspapers.

This time the activists targeted the king, his wealth, the impunity of the filthy rich, the link between monarchy and corrupt military regimes and the erasure of 1932.

Local police and the king’s security detail showed up. It remains unclear how Thai security – probably military and police – can do anything at all on German soil.





The billion dollar monarchy

13 03 2020

Prachatai has a post on royal funding. One of the last freely available pieces of information on the billions that flow from public coffers – the taxpayer – to the royal family is in draft budget papers from the Budget Bureau that go to parliament.

The headline budget expenditure for 2020, for the “stability of the main national institutions” is about 5.35 billion baht. Yet this is misleading as funding to the royal family is scattered throughout the budget.

The headline figure is that the monarchy costs the taxpayer $1 billion.

Expensive

Prachatai comes up with a provisional additional expenditures of more than 29.72 billion baht. It finds “direct expenditures” of 19.68 billion baht and “indirect expenses” of 10.04 billion baht.

Direct expenditures are those made directly to the monarchy, such as the security budget, travel budget, and institutional protection budgets. Indirect expenditures are what might be called “related expenditures” which includes things like royal projects and the ubiquitous “public relations” expenditures for propaganda. Every ministry has “projects” that “honor” the royal family and monarchy.

Then there’s a third set of funds that cost some 1.26 billion baht. These are projects named for the monarchy, so also fall into the category of royalist propaganda. These expenditures include things like “training” for farmers in the dead king’s sufficiency economy “theory.”

All of this means that total expenditure is around 31 billion baht.

While Prachatai has considerable detail, we won’t include here. We do note that the report makes the point that this massive sum does not include budgets from universities, local government organizations, state enterprises, the budgets for constructing and maintaining buildings and infrastructure that “honor” the monarchy and the royal family.

In the detailed commentary, we did notice some interesting line items:

– Travel, flights and head of state operations: 6.52 billion baht.

– Ministry of Interior budget for “honouring” the monarchy: 2.38 billion baht.

– Ministry of Defense funds for honouring, acting on the monarch’s wishes and whims 1.71 billion baht.

– Royal projects: 847 million baht.

– Royal decorations: 505.5 million baht

– To Be Number One (non-Princess Ubolratana’s propaganda project): 17.4 million baht.

Let us know if we got any of the calculations wrong.