THAILAND’S royal family has formally turned over its multi-billion dollar fortune to King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who assumed the throne after the death of his father in 2016.
An undated announcement seen on Saturday on the website of the Crown Property Bureau (CPB), the financial arm of the monarchy, said that full ownership of the palace’s multi-billion dollar assets were handed over to King Vajiralongkorn under a law passed last year, Aljazeera reported.
“All ‘Crown Property Assets’ are to be transferred and revert to the ownership of His Majesty, so that they may be administered and managed at His Majesty’s discretion,” said the note which featured prominently on the front page of the CPB’s website.
The announcement also said that while CPB had been exempt from taxes and duties, the personal assets of the king and the holdings previously belonging to CPB to be treated together as ‘Crown Property Assets’ would “be subject to the same duties and taxation as would assets belonging to any other citizen”.
King Vajiralongkorn inherited one of the world’s great fortunes, which according to analysts varies between $30bn to $60bn, although the monarchy does not publicly declare its wealth and is shielded from scrutiny by a draconian lese majeste law.
Most of the money is controlled by the opaque CPB, a vast portfolio that includes massive property ownership and investments in major companies.
Last year the Thai military government amended a royal property law for the first time in 69 years to give Vajiralongkorn full control over the CPB.
The CPB’s most notable assets are real estate in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, including the Siam Commercial Bank and a major building materials conglomerate, Siam Cement Group.
It was one of several steps taken by Vajiralongkorn to increase his personal control over the palace bureaucracy, which during his father’s reign was managed by professional managers administering the palace’s business interests.
In a move to replace palace officials with his own appointments, Vajiralongkorn appointed in March his close aide Air Chief Marshal Satitpong Sukvimol in place of Chirayu Israngkun Na Ayuthaya, who had been director general of the CPB since 1987.
Public discussion of the monarchy’s actions remains taboo due to Thailand’s lese majeste law, which can punish perceived criticism with up to 15 years.