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.





Money for royals

3 10 2015

Not that long ago, a New York Times story had it that the taxpayer under the military dictatorship was forking out $540 million on promoting and protecting the monarchy, massively increased from the already enormous $350 million of 2013. That’s in addition to any deals done with individual royals, the Crown Property Bureau and any additional funds that are allocated after the budget is drawn up.

In other words, the monarchy and individual royals do very nicely indeed, leeching off the taxpayer and the state.

What we did not realize is that these privileged, wealthy and pampered royals also draw salaries from the ridiculous ceremonial positions they hold. Yes, we know they charge students for the “honor” of a diploma being handed to them and that posterior polishers throw money at them, but we hadn’t known that they get paid for being generals, admiral and air chief marshals.

In a Khaosod report it is stated that Princess Sirindhorn, who has just “left her teaching post at the Chulalomklao Royal Military Academy, has been paid a salary of 26 million baht over 35 years. Sirindhorn and golden mikes

Khaosod is able to report this because the academy director, General Charnchai Yotsundhorn waxed grateful that the stupendously royal employee had decided to give the salary back. Not immediately, but on an installment plan, beginning with 7 million baht as a first installment.

Charnchai was “infinitely grateful to Her Royal Highness…”, but failed to explain why she took the salary for 35 years and why she can’t give it all back now.

Khaosod states that the “monarchy has a close relationship with the military, with prominent members of the Royal Family holding military ranks or posts in the armed forces.” This caused us to wonder if all the other royals with ceremonial ranks were pocketing taxpayer tips? We guess they are: king, queen, prince and several princesses perhaps. We wonder if the recently departed poodle Fu Fu, which had rank in the military, was also paid a salary?





Flaunting royal wealth

1 08 2015

The king and queen are hidden in hospital – when was the last time we heard anything about them? Chulabhorn is quiet, and Sirindhorn still scribbling, grinning and influencing postage stamps. Prince Vajiralongkorn is due to cycle for the queen and military dictatorship. Yet the royals do seem to have quietened down since the coup.

The fashionista of the frumpish family is Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana. We don’t usually follow her travels and son on, although we have mentioned her call for an island to be named after her, a report of her luxury travels and we have mentioned her capacity for luxury and wasting taxpayers’ money when a self-indulgent princess traipses around the world in a “career” that is just one on a list of the rich kid’s bucket list of “great” things she will be “great” at. She certainly seems to be great at spending the taxpayer’s money and, we guess, plenty of the family’s buckets of money.

Royals everywhere tend to be rich and self-indulgent, but with the Thai economy in a military-induced fall, we wondered about her flaunting of extravagance in a story and video at the UK’s Daily Mail. Many readers will prefer to skip the story and especially the video, yet the story of royals and Paris Fashion Week 2015 tells us about Sirivannavari’s penchant for horrendously expensive designer clothes and shoes.

The story tells us that “Style maverick Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana of Thailand is regularly snapped at fashion week looking more like an on-trend blogger than a member of the royal family thanks to her natty glasses, clashing patterns and platform boots.”

Performing like the other vacant celebrities, with the video revealing for us, we are informed that the “28-year-old daughter of Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is fast becoming a fashion phenomena the world over because of her couture threads and cutting-edge looks from designers such as Dior, Chanel and Jean Paul Gaultier.” Shoes too: “She also has a shoe closet to rival Carrie Bradshaw and often steps out in creations by luxury footwear brands Christian Louboutian and Valentino.” Naturally enough, PPT had no idea who Bradshaw was but we soon found that the sit-com character had a truckload of expensive shoes.

All a bit much, we thought, but wealthy royals and their supporters will gush and polish butts.





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.








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