Since the king died, there have been a spate of stories on Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, most of them negative.
In a Wall Street Journal story a couple of days ago, the focus is on the huge wealth the new monarch will inherit: “Thailand’s crown prince won’t only succeed his father as king. He will also inherit the keys to one of the world’s largest royal fortunes.”
Yes, the junta will come out and complain that the Crown Property Bureau doesn’t belong to the king/queen, but to the “institution.” It matters not, for the management is almost entirely with royal flunkies dedicated to obeying. That’s not to say that government doesn’t have a stake in it.
The WSJ states:
The multibillion-dollar wealth of the Thai crown is rarely discussed in the country. Strict lèse-majesté laws, which criminalize any criticism of the monarchy, make many reluctant to study or debate the matter, especially now, just a month after the death of the long-reigning King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Oct. 13.
In the coming weeks, though, the fortune will pass into the control of an untested heir who has lived much of his life overseas. How Crown Prince … Vajiralongkorn administers it, and especially the investments in the Crown Property Bureau, is one of the most significant questions in a country where the ruling military junta has seized power twice in the past decade, in part to make sure the royal succession goes smoothly.
It says the “crown’s assets and corporate holdings are valued at over $40 billion, according to one study, more than the wealth of Britain’s royal family or the rulers of Saudi Arabia. Its glittering royal regalia includes the world’s largest cut diamond, a golden conical crown and a fly whisk made from the tail hair of an albino elephant.”
Throw in the royal’s private wealth and the public money showered on it and “protecting” it, and this is a fat, extravagant and avaricious family.
The 70-year-long reign of the dead king was one that built power, economic and political. The CPB “became a powerful cash-spinning conglomerate and one of the most influential levers in the Thai economy.” Annual income from the CPB is reported to have grown from 563 million baht in 1987 to more than more than 1.15 billion in 2015.
The prince has expenses. The WSJ states that “[i]n late 2014, for instance, the finance ministry said the bureau made a 200 million baht, or $5.64 million, divorce payment, to 64-year-old Prince Vajiralongkorn’s most recent spouse.”
Given the prince’s previous behavior and the fact that all of her family is locked up and she’s hardly seen, somehow we doubt this. Even so, his international travel and living expenses are likely to be a far greater drain on the CPB than it has seen in earlier years. But who really knows? It is all a secret.
Update: Southeast Asia Globe has a story about inheritance tax in Bavaria. The prince maintains a residence in Bavaria and spends quite a lot of time there on the banks of Lake Starnberg and the story says he will be up for this tax. The story estimates it as $3.5 billion, based on reports of the assets of the CPB. An intersting claim, especially when one palace watcher says that the (military) government will pay it for him. We doubt this. The official blarney about the CPB has long been that it doesn’t personally belong to the king.