Wealthy winners

12 07 2021

moneybagsWith some of the rich in the news of late, it is timely that Forbes has released its annual list of Thailand’s wealthiest. Forbes includes 50 on its list, and PPT shows the top ten.

Recent news has the top tycoons, CP’s Chearavanont family, yet again denying “any involvement in the government’s procurement of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine from China.” This came after cabinet’s decision last Tuesday “to procure 10.9 million more doses of Sinovac at a cost of 6.1 billion baht.” The report has CP stating:

Charoen Pokphand Group once again insists the Sinovac vaccine procurement is conducted in a government-to-government (G2G) format only, which has nothing to do with CP either directly or indirectly….

The Bangkok Post report neglects to recall CP’s role in the company producing the vaccine, via CP’s Sino Biopharmaceutical. Given the tight links between the regime and the top tycoons, including the Chearavanont family, we can only wonder about the claims made and those denied.

And, of course, PPT has recently posted on the Yoovidh­ya family, who rank second, and their runaway scion and the efforts to (further) corrupt the justice system for the wealthy.

As usual, the Forbes list leaves out the fabulously wealthy monarch. We estimate his wealth as about double that of the Chearavanont family.

Richest

Comparing the most recent Forbes list to earlier data, it is seen that the wealth of the top 5 is not back to their 2018 high. However, the top 5 has increased by $13.6 billion over 2020. As for the top 10, they also remain below their 2018 high, but have added $15.5 billion over 2020.

This is in a context where per capita GDP declined between 2019 and 2020 by 6.3%. And, we’d guess it might also decline in 2021.





Updated: More vaccine contortion

21 06 2021

The vaccine “rollout” is more like a cart with square wheels “rolling.” It is off-again/on-again, rescheduled, and still the availability of vaccine is limited, delayed, and unsure.

Clipped from The Rand Blog

So unsure is the Siam Bioscience delivery of AstraZeneca, the Japanese are donating 1 million doses to Thailand. And still the regime stays mum on the situation of Siam Bioscience. No transparency where the king’s money is concerned. A new spokesman has been appointed, but he ain’t saying anything. In any case, his appointment is meant to make the regime’s obfuscations seem more realistic.

The there was the special allocation of vaccine to the stupendously rich.

The Bangkok Post reports that “Chatchai Promlert, permanent secretary for the Interior Ministry, is insisting that his approval to provide free Covid-19 vaccine doses to over 70,000 Thai Beverage Public Company Limited (ThaiBev) employees and their families is lawful.”

ThaiBev is mostly owned by Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi and his family, who always rank near the top of Thailand’s billionaires. Last time we looked, his fortune was over $10 billion.

As far as we know, most private companies are seeking jabs from private suppliers, but not ThaiBev. The company “requested assistance for the vaccination of 43,201 employees and 28,244 families in Bangkok and 76 provinces.” And this is from the state’s free vaccines.

Permanent-secretary Chatchai “was asked whether such approval was considered appropriate because many people across the country have yet to receive their jabs…. Chatchai, who is also responsible for dealing with emergency situations and coordinating with provincial governors…”, defended the decision as “lawful.”

He argued that he “approved the allocation of free Covid-19 vaccine doses to ThaiBev under the guidelines of the National Communicable Diseases Committee.”

But, then, Chatchai somersaulted. He issued a new order, replacing the previous “lawful” one, rescinding the latter. According to The Nation,

The new order … told the provincial governors to ignore the previous order and adhere to the guidelines provided by the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration in procuring and allotting vaccine to the public in each province with focus on comprehensiveness and no discrimination.

The new order also urged the governors to establish awareness and understanding with the private sector and the public regarding the province’s plans to prevent new Covid-19 cluster cases in each area.

It is clear that the regime and its hand-picked bureaucratic bosses are seeking to do favors for good friends (who also have lots of money).

The shemozzle seems to be getting worse.

Update: Was there any “shenanigans” in vaccine allocations? Of course not. So says the regime and Ministry of Interior. They are lying. As is usual in such cases, their denials are so silly that it is obvious that there were shenanigans. Indeed, in a country of double standards, this is exactly what would be expected. It is normal.





The virus and the rich and powerful

7 06 2021

Thailand’s mass vaccination program has officially begun today. The Ministry of Public Health reckons it probably has “enough” vaccine for the first days and weeks as “the government has brought in more Sinovacs vaccine … to last through June before production of AZ vaccines pick up in July.”

That means “the public will not be able to pick what vaccine they receive in June because we won’t know what vaccine we get from the government until one or two days before the vaccination date,” says a “private hospital administrator who asked to not be named.”

Even so, “many hospitals are postponing their vaccination appointments due to shortages.” These shortages have been officially confirmed and is linked back to the king’s Siam Bioscience:

Sathit Pitutecha, Deputy Minister of Public Health, said the Public Health Ministry had learned that many hospitals had postponed vaccinations booked for today as they were afraid they would not receive enough doses.

“We were aware of this problem, so we will try to ensure the elderly and those with the diseases who registered through the Mor Prom application get their jabs first.

”After that, the ministry will deliver the additional vaccines that we’ve received from the AstraZeneca company,” he said.

The ministry has yet to receive clear information about when the company will deliver.

“The company is trying its best to deliver. They might give us 300,000–500,000 doses at a time. It depends on them,” he said.

As a reminder of how things went wrong with the virus, the Bangkok Post has published a New York Times article on Thailand’s virus wave by Hannah Beech and Muktita Suhartono.

Naturally enough, it begins with the Thonglor clubs favored by Bangkok’s wealthy men, which seemed to ignite the latest wave.

Krystal 2

Krystal Club promotional photo

When the VVIP customers disembarked from their limousines at the Krystal Exclusive Club, young women in tiaras, angel wings and not much else sometimes greeted them.

The VVIP clientele were whisked to the VVIP rooms, with their padded walls and plush sofas. Thai government bigwigs partied at Krystal [and Emerald] … as did diplomats, army officers and business owners. For much of the pandemic, coronavirus restrictions did not stop the fun.

Krystal 1

Krystal Club VIP room

The clubs, their staff, and the wealthy patrons became :

the epicentre of what is now Thailand’s biggest and deadliest coronavirus surge, according to health ministry officials. Scores of people linked to the clubs have tested positive, including an ambassador and a government minister. Police officers and women who worked at the clubs have been infected, too.

The “privileged few catalysed Bangkok’s latest coronavirus outbreak…”. At the same time, the nightclub cluster again “highlights the impunity of the rich in a country with one of the largest wealth gaps among major economies.”

The virus “has now radiated from luxury nightclubs that cater to powerful and wealthy men to the … slums …, prisons, construction camps and factories.” It is Thailand’s third and largest wave.

Responsibility? Never:

When cases involve high-profile tycoons or politicians, though, investigations in Thailand have a habit of fizzling. Murder charges do not materialise. Well-connected individuals slip into exile. Thailand’s three waves of coronavirus infection have crested in the shadowy zones where the rich profit from questionable businesses and defy Covid protocols.

First outbreak: “traced by virologists to a Bangkok boxing stadium operated by the country’s powerful military, which makes money on sports gambling.”

Second outbreak: “tracked by health officials to a sweatshop seafood business, which depends on immigration officers turning a blind eye to workers trafficked from neighbouring countries.”

Chuwit Kamolvisit, who ran massage parlors and paid off police and other officials says: “In Thai culture, we can smile and lie at the same time…”. He pithily describes “Krystal [as] like another Government House, because it’s so popular with those people…”.

Now, as the poor suffer the brunt of the outbreak, a “few wealthy Bangkok residents have boasted on social media about buying vaccination cards from the city’s most desperate residents.” One observer laments: “The rich who are already privileged are stepping on the poor…. They believe their money can buy anything.”

It got them two coups and the authoritarianism they so desired.





Royals, capitalists, and inequality

28 01 2021

An op-ed at both Asia Sentinel and Eurasia Review, titled “Hierarchy, Power And Inequality In Thailand,” and published a few days ago, there’s a useful, short account of the country’s oligarchy. We reproduce the interesting bits:

Although Thailand is one of the region’s wealthiest states and has been cited as a success story of modernization and development, the gap between rich and poor is widening. Thailand is placed in the world’s top inequitable countries, in terms of wealth and income distribution.

According to a recent Credit Suisse study, one percent of the population holds 66.9 percent of the nation’s wealth, with 36 percent of equity held by only 500 people. According to the World Bank, poverty has grown from 7.21 percent in 2015 to 9.85 percent in 2018.

It has probably grown further with the impact of the virus.  The article then moves on to the oligarchs:

While more Thais are struggling to make ends meet, sections of Thailand’s elite class have been increasing their wealth. A survey by Money and Banking Magazine with the Faculty of Commerce and Accountancy at Chulalongkorn University using Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) data, found that Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, the founder of Thai Beverage and chairman of the TCC Group, Vonnarat Tangkaravakoon, chairman of TOA Paints, and Khunying Wanna Sirivadhanabhakdi, chairperson of Sangsom Group and Beerthip Brewery, had actually increased their wealth during the pandemic.

Notice that three are mentioned but it is only two families. The discussion adds:

Thailand is economically dominated and ruled by a small close-knit elite composed of the monarchy, the military, and a small number of families who control Thailand’s major businesses. This small group is interrelated through family ties, intermarriage and long-held relationships.

Don’t for a moment think this is something recent. Back in 2011, PPT posted on “maps” of elements of the ruling class going back to the early 1950s. For us, what has changed is eerily reminiscent of the destruction of symbols of 1932. The ruling class has been re-sculpted to be royalist.

From 1932, the People’s Party and the regimes that followed, at least until World War 2, had altered the nature of the ruling class by limiting the monarchy and the princes.

It was the ninth reign that changed this. One of Bhumibol’s great successes was in rebuilding the monarchy’s enormous wealth. Forget all the propaganda about royal projects and a frugal king. He was a determined acquirer of wealth. He did this in alliance with the military and selected Sino-Thai capitalists. It is that arrangement which produced the oligarchy of today. Some of the names have changed, but there’s continuity too.

Of course, many of the top generals did exceptionally well. A much-neglected and very detailed doctoral dissertation by David Morell, “Power and Parliament in Thailand: The Futile Challenge, 1968-1971” has lots of data, including claims about the wealth and economic connections of the top generals who were also ministers. Here’s a taste:

Thailand has long been a highly unequal society, and the palace, the military and the connected capitalists will fight tooth-and-nail to protect the inequality that allows them to suck the wealth from the country. That also means controlling politics. As the op-ed has it:

Right-wing political groups with monarchist ideologies developed, representing the elite. The elite classes were boosted with ethnic Chinese business families, civil leadership developed at both provincial and local levels, and military personnel. Nationalism and monarchy became more important than democracy, a doctrine which has been espoused to maintain the establishment grip on power beyond question. This espoused cultural-political concept of ‘Thainess’ totally encapsulates the need to maintain status quo of the position of the elite within politics and society.





Prayuth’s poverty regime

17 11 2020

A story in the Bangkok Post reports that Jinanggoon Rojananan, deputy-secretary general of the National Economic and Social Development Council (NESDC), “11.4 million households are at risk of falling into poverty from the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, with the unemployment rate rising…”.

Today, there “are 637,000 households dependent on public and private financial assistance” with 467,000 of them reporting lower incomes today. These “households work in sectors that are more prone to job losses such as tourism or self-employment.” Jinanggoon claims that poverty fell between 2018 and 2019.

That poverty is claimed to have decreased between 2018 and 2019 may not be a huge surprise as the junta poured money into “buying” votes through all kinds of programs it once lambasted as “populist” or as “policy corruption.” But Jinanggoon seems to be warning of a dire downturn in 2020.

But the story of the Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha regime over several years needs to be told. Back in March, the World Bank reported:

Between 2015 and 2018, the poverty rate in Thailand increased from 7.2 percent to 9.8 percent, and the absolute number of people living in poverty rose from 4.85 million to more than 6.7 million. The increase in poverty in 2018 was widespread – occurring in all regions and in 61 out of 77 provinces. In the Central and Northeast, the number of poor increased by over half a million in each region during the same period. The conflict-affected South became the region with the highest poverty rate for the first time in 2017.

In suggesting why these increases in poverty have occurred, the World Bank states:

The population at the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution is not sharing as well in prosperity, and in the recent period of 2015-2017, consumption and income growth in this bottom 40 percent were negative. The reversal in trend among this bottom 40 during this period is related to declines in all forms of labor incomes, including a stagnation in wage growth and declines in farm and business incomes.

The full report can be downloaded as a PDF. For an academic discussion of this report and its implications, another PDF is available.

Meanwhile, some of the filthy rich are doing well, with CP having a massive rise in profits.





The tycoons and the regime

29 06 2020

In what looks like one of its regular paid adverts masquerading as news and called “PR story,” the Bangkok Post has an account of Chia Tai, a CP family company. It “reports” a recent “volunteering activity under its ‘Chia Tai Volunteer Project’ corporate social responsibility initiative whereby its staff join forces to make a difference in the community during the crisis.”

We guess this is yet another PR activity associated with Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s call to the country’s billionaires for support in responding to the enormous economic downturn associated with the virus crisis. CP has been doing pretty well during the crisis. So have others in the ranks of the giant conglomerates, so the PR seems like a political strategy.

This CP PR exercise involves the distribution of food boxes in communities surrounding Chia Tai Headquarters on Sukhumvit 60. Interestingly, it is said to be “supported by Phrakhanong District Office and Internal Security Operation Command (ISOC)…”.

As part of the embedding of the military in society, ISOC seems to be everywhere.

We can’t say for sure how far the mutual back-scratching between company, military and regime goes, but CP has done pretty darn well, soaking up state funds and helping itself. And there’s probably much more to come.

For example, the Bangkok Post recently reported that the “Industry Ministry is planning 1.9 billion baht in spending to help farmers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as part of a 10-billion-baht pandemic relief proposal submitted to the National Economic and Social Development Council.”

Farmers, right? Well, not really. Industry Minister Suriya Juangroongruangkit said his ministry wants to “develop the whole agricultural industry from upstream to downstream production…”. The biggest beneficiary is likely to be CP’s Chearavanont family, one of the country’s largest landowners and long pushing for a more industrial-style agriculture.

The latter is being taken up by the regime in yet another virus crisis spend: “projects to cultivate sustainable growth include a 16.05-billion-baht project to develop five million rai covering 5,450 large-scale farms. The aim is to implement more machinery on large-sized farms to increase the value of production by about 11 billion baht a year.” And this is packaged among a bunch of state splurges said to be about promoting the dead king’s trite “New Theory”-cum-sufficiency economy, in the “agriculture sector which will cover a total of 240,000 rai.”

The mantra for sufficiency economy is as meaningless as it has ever been, but it polishes the royal family posterior and allows the regime to trumpet its “loyalty.” The importsant thing seems to be that the tycoons rub the regime’s tummy and the regime scratches the tycoons’ collective back. And, the taxpayer coughs up the loot.





Gorging on state funds

21 06 2020

Reading the media the past couple of days and we feel like the regime, its ministers and its buddies are engaging in gluttony, seemingly gorging on state coffers.

One deal we posted on them recently got more press coverage:

The Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Office’s Eastern Special Development Zone Policy Committee yesterday signed the [290-billion-baht] deal with winning concessionaire, U-Tapao International Aviation Co, an offshoot of the BBS Joint Venture that won the bid to develop the “aeropolis” in Ban Chang district of Rayong Province….

…[T]he BBS Joint Venture comprises Bangkok Airways, which owns 45% of the shares, BTS Group Holdings which owns 35%, and Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction (STEC) which owns 20%.

So we can identify two conglomerates involving two of the countries wealthiest Sino-Thai tycoons – the Prasarttong-Osoth family at Bangkok Airways and the Kanjanapas clan at BTS. It was Forbes lister Prasert Prasattong-Osoth giving advice to Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha recently. It seems advice doesn’t come cheap. Then we have Sino-Thai Engineering and Construction:

Interesting. But what can we expect from people who are used to having with state officials in their pockets.

Then we saw that idea from convicted heroin smuggler and Deputy Agriculture Minister Thammanat Prompao for seizing land  illegally occupied by resorts and hotels, and then renting it back to them. Brilliant! Thammanat is already a baht billionaire and this looks like a surefire way to double money and pay for more of his big brother’s parliamentary seats and maybe even some watches. A Bangkok Post editorial commented that the scheme “is so outrageous that it should be dropped immediately…”.

And what about the news that the “Finance Ministry is ready to consider retail operators’ proposal for tax breaks on shopping to stimulate domestic spending…” with 50,000 baht per shopper! Now, who could that help most? We suggest it would throw shiploads of money into the big retailers, like the Chirathivat and Umpujh clans who are also Forbes listers.

It also potentially helps out the royal family and specifically Princess Sirindhorn, a member of the country’s wealthiest family that already scoops up billions in taxpayer funds. It was Chadatip Chutrakul, chief executive of majority royal-owned Siam Piwat Co, the operator of Siam Paragon, Siam Center and Iconsiam, that “said the government should come up with measures to compel people to leave the house and spend more.”

Happy to grab more loot

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. She may be a bit short this year, so the state purse becomes a surrogate source of wealth.

Such “private” deals seem to be gathering pace under the virus crisis and rehabilitation plans. Recall how just a few weeks ago, the biggest of the business whales, multi-billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont was urging the regime to turn the country into a ‘safe haven’ for wealthy visitors.” His wish seems to be the regime’s command, with Tourism Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn declaring that the “government’s tourism-revival strategy is to target big spenders seeking privacy and social distancing in the Covid-19 era, rather than try to attract a large number of visitors…. He added that the virus “provides an opportunity to reset the sector, which had become reliant on Chinese groups and backpackers…”. With 11 million Chinese tourists in 2019 and a total of almost 40 million, it seems there’s a determination to crush most of the industry and all that flows from it to every other part of the service sector, which before the virus accounted 46% of total employment and 57% of GDP.

And, these “private” deals are being institutionalized, with the regime reviving a Prem Tinsulanonda-era idea, agreeing with the private sector “to revive the Joint Public-Private Consultative Committee (JPPCC) as a core forum for the two to work together on solutions for the country’s social and economic rehabilitation after the pandemic.” That was first suggested a year ago but looks increasingly likely to become a processing terminal for turning state funds into private gains.

Finally, we may have missed the announcements, but it seems that the long-delayed contracts for the Sino-Thai high (probably medium) speed railway are being doled out. If the reporting is right, it suggests smoke-filled rooms and cosy deals. We quote the Bangkok Post:

SRT governor Niruj Maneepun yesterday told the media that Contract 2.3 is worth 50.6 billion baht, which includes funds for the railway system, rolling stocks and staff training….

The signing of the contract will be carried out in October as planned, Mr Niruj said.

Contract 2.3 is one of seven railway contracts worth a total of 179.4 billion baht for the Bangkok-Nong Khai High-Speed Train Project. Contract 2.3 would cover the project’s first phase, which is a 253-kilometre stretch from Bangkok to Nakhon Ratchasima….

The construction for the whole project has been ongoing since 2018 and it is expected to finish in 2023. [In fact, very little construction has occurred, apart from a very short section near Nakhon Ratchasima.]

So far, the SRT has said the project is making progress, noting it is finding contractors to develop all seven phases. It said a few have already agreed and signed some of the contracts.

That doesn’t look like open tendering, not that such systems stand in the way of the transfer of funds to private sector cronies and giant corporations.





(Some) winners and (lots of) losers

8 06 2020

The South China Morning Post reports on what looks like an ever-increasing gap between the filthy rich and the rest. It begins:

On a roadside in a mixed Bangkok neighbourhood stands a shiny metal box – a “Pantry of Sharing” – where the haves in one of the world’s least equal countries can leave food for the have-nots, the ranks of whom are bulging as the coronavirus lays waste to the Thai economy.

Of course, it is the “maids from the grand mansions” who deliver the scraps for the “pantries.”

The report highlights that stark realities of wealth and poverty in Thailand. There’s research on this, showing how well the big families have done in recent years.

Now, already struggling, the virus and the mix of technocratic and authoritarian measures to control it and the population “is pushing Thailand’s poor deeper into penury.” The report notes that “[t]here are millions of newly unemployed…”.

As the report observes, it is “not just the poor who are facing ruin. Middle-class workers are losing their office jobs, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are bleeding cash, with knock-on effects on mortgage, car and school payments.”

Looking at economic data, the report suggests that the economic decline is worse than during the 1997 crisis. It quotes academic Pavida Pananond who says that the hardest hit in the virus crisis “are the low and middle classes…”. She adds: “This crisis will further widen Thailand’s inequality.”

(We wonder if Pavida looked at 1997 data. Back then, the fact is that even the World Bank counted 1 million Thais falling into poverty and the top 20% saw their wealth increase through the crisis, although official Ginis declined, suggesting that the “middle class” suffered.)

The article continues:

Thailand is a country of extremes. Its king is one of the world’s richest monarchs while business monopolies with deep political connections have carved extraordinary wealth for family empires spanning from beer and duty-free to shopping malls.

The country has 57 billionaires, according to the 2020 Hurun Global Rich List, the ninth most in the world with a combined wealth of US$135 billion – more than Singapore, Japan or France.

Only China and India boast more billionaires in Asia, according to the list by the Shanghai-based publishers.

It’s raining money

Commenting on Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s “unprecedented plea for the tycoons’ help to float the economy and head off potential discontent…”, Pavida observes the quid pro quo: “Prayuth’s appeal for help “offers these tycoons direct opportunities to do favours for the government…”. She adds: “These tycoons know better than most what political favour can do for their businesses.”

But, as the report notes (as PPT has too), “most  the billionaires have so far offered little…”. Their “advice” has been self-serving and their funds limited and often building their own enterprises.

It goes on to observe that CP’s patriarch Dhanin Chearavanont, ignoring galloping unemployment asked for an open door for “foreign expertise.” He said, “Thailand needs around five million world-class talents to teach and lead Thais…. Give them Thai nationality to incentivise these great brains…”. We assume he means Chinese “talent.”

Forget fake  “Thai-ness” and “contributing to Thai society.” Dhanin wants more for his family and companies. His position is little different from that exhibited by the rest of the filthy rich.





Profits up

16 05 2020

PPT is not a regular reader of Successful Farming, but one of its recent stories did catch our attention. That story reports that “Thailand’s largest agribusiness Charoen Pokphand Foods Pcl (CPF) expects to have its best year ever due to soaring pork prices and plans to expand in North America…”.

Yes, that’s the CP where its ruling clan has headed rich lists in Thailand for years. Its the CP that had Suphachai Chearavanont, chief executive of Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group, hailing “the prime minister’s gesture as a smart move” when Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha begged for help from Thailand’s billionaires. It is the same CP that had multi-billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont “urging the government to relax lockdown measures and welcome foreign travellers as soon as possible, and turn the country into a ‘safe haven’ for wealthy visitors.”

It is a reminder of how some benefit greatly from a crisis as pork and other food prices soar. One of CP Food’s bosses boasted:”This could be our best year … because pork prices are very good and chicken prices are recovering and an easing of lockdown measures will allow restaurants to open…”. Ah, yes, and if the tourists Dhanin wants back come, think of even higher profits. And, CPF profits from some falling prices, like corn.

CPF “reported a net profit of 6.11 billion baht ($190 million) for January-March, up 43% from a year earlier and a record high quarterly profit due to high pork prices in Vietnam and Cambodia.” We can but wonder if CPF actually pays taxes somewhere in the world.

Clipped from Prachatai

An earlier virus – African swine fever – means that CP is boosting investment in Canada so it can export pork to China and other parts of Asia that have soaring prices. And, in Thailand, the junta/post junta regime is depending on Thailand for its only economic idea: the Eastern Economic Corridor.

Life is good, and the hope for CP remains that its “helping the nation” propaganda hides its profit(eering).





Wealth haven

14 05 2020

The Bangkok Post reports that tone-deaf multi-billionaire Dhanin Chearavanont “urging the government to relax lockdown measures and welcome foreign travellers as soon as possible, and turn the country into a ‘safe haven’ for wealthy visitors.”

Now a member of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha’s billionaire advisory group known as Team Thailand, and previously a shadowy figure of influence behind several royalist regimes (and, once, of Thaksin Shinawatra’s government), Dhanin is speaking up on the economy, fearing that the extended lockdown is killing the economy. He’s right, but his perspective is that of huge wealth and massive privilege.

He is reported to have stated:

“We can’t wait until a vaccine is developed and produced in sufficient quantity to roll out to the entire population,” Mr Dhanin said. “The economy won’t survive that long.”

He said the tourism sector accounted for 16-17% percent of GDP and should be revived due to improvements in the virus situation.

Mr Dhanin proposed the government attract high-spending tourists from across the world by highlighting Thailand’s success in containing the spread of Covid-19.

So his proposal is to wind up tourism but for the wealthy, like him. Presumably he would also be one of the first to get any vaccine if it is safe and when available.

His perspective is that the poor majority in Thailand are there to be exploited by him, his companies and his tycoon buddies. We can imagine a “haven” for wealthy tourists, built on a service sector of low wages, low skills and great profits for companies like his.

Dhanin, clipped from Forbes

In fact, Thailand is already a wealth haven for Dhanin and all the other billionaires and multi-millionaires. Their wealth is built on their capacity to exploit the wealth created by Thai workers, enforced by a (military) state that works in their interests. The bags of money his companies drag into to fling at royals is part of their insurance policy on maintaining a wealth haven.”

A tourism “safe haven” for the wealthy includes “five-star hotels and resorts; we also have five-star hospitals and the best doctors…”, most of them owned by fellow billionaires. He wants a safe haven to make even more money.” Dhanin adds: “If we can make rich people feel confident that staying in Thailand is safer than their own countries then they will come.”

Dhanin and his billionaire buddies will also feel safe, so long as they maintain the protective shell of the military, prevent the king from too self-inflicted backlashes and keep the military-backed regime dawdling along. Dhanin’s pitch seems designed to nudge the regime along. We are waiting for the response. Will Gen Prayuth want to be publicly seen as a billionaire’s puppet?

 








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