Saturday, January 16, 2021

Public engage in spirited debate on Crown Property

Nov 29. 2020
Arnond Sakworawich
Arnond Sakworawich
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By The Nation

A local TV station's debate on the Crown Property and its connection with the monarchy has stirred a spirited public debate.

Thairath TV had hosted the debate amid close public attention on the demand to reform the monarchy.

Arnond Sakworawich, a lecturer at the National Institute of Development Administration, took on pro-democracy protest leader Panusaya "Rung" Sithijirawattanakul.

He confronted Panusaya with information in defence of the monarchy, but his statements made many viewers re-examine the facts.

Arnond said the Crown Property was like the monarch’s fund with its own administration and management, but according to a Facebook group of CSI LA page dedicating to counter the fake news, the Crown Property states that the property does not belong to the King but the government. Effectively, it was the country’s property.

Defending the monarchy, Arnond said that the details of the Crown Property are disclosed annually to the public.

Some political observers questioned why it had to be revealed if it was personal property as had been claimed previously, and why it had not been revealed since 2017, when the reign of King Rama X began.

Puangthong Pawakapan, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, wrote on her Facebook page that before 1932, the revenue came from taxation, monopoly in international trading and the ownership of lands in Bangkok because the monarch was considered a sovereign.

King Rama V reformed the system and separated it from the country’s expenditure. The Ministry of Finance was established in 1890, which raised income after that. The Crown Property website informs that as incomes increased due to reforms in 1980, the ministry was created to manage the privy purse.

She explained that the Crown Property had been under the government’s management since 1932, as the monarch was no longer a sovereign and could no longer tax his subjects to raise money for the Crown Property.

After a coup in 1947, royalists tried to push a law separating the Crown Property from the government to help it become a juristic entity, allowing the King to select four committees to manage the entity together with the finance minister.

Therefore, the statement from some academics that the public can freely view the expenditure of the Crown Property is a “lie”, Puangthong wrote.

The international media used to estimate the wealth of the Thai monarch from shareholdings and real estate but the Crown Property had never revealed the exact number, she said.

She wrote that disclosing details of the Crown Property was important for the legal system and the dignity of the monarch, as it would remove suspicions among the public about the King’s expenditure.

The “special” nature of the establishment had benefited the Crown Property several times, such as during the economic crisis in 1997 when Siam Commercial Bank, in which the Crown Property holds a major stake, was subsidised by the Finance Ministry to preserve the share value, she said.

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