The Associated Press
Published: August 23, 2008
BANGKOK, Thailand: A Forbes magazine report that lists Thailand’s king as the world’s richest royal is “inaccurate and inconsistent” because it includes vast property holdings as part of his net worth, the Thai foreign ministry said.
Forbes placed Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Wednesday at the top of its list of wealthy monarchs with a fortune of US$35 billion. He took the top spot from the Sultan of Brunei, whose US$20 billion fortune has declined amid cutbacks in the country’s oil production.
But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs disputed those calculations. It argued the report was wrong because it included land and other assets “belonging to the Crown Property Bureau that are not part of the king’s net worth.”
“The Crown Property Bureau has clarified that the report is inaccurate and inconsistent,” the ministry said in a statement Friday.
It said the Crown Property Bureau is an institution “which essentially belongs to all Thais” that owns and manages the assets of the monarchy, and the assets are not the personal wealth of the king, The Nation newspaper said.
The ministry did not say what the king’s net worth was.
The Crown Property Bureau has vast land holdings across the country and is one of the largest property owners in Bangkok. It also has a stake in industry heavy-hitters Siam Cement and Siam Commercial Bank.
A spokesman for Forbes could not immediately be reached for comment on the ministry statement.
The Forbes estimate of the king’s wealth follows an article in the February issue of the Journal of Contemporary Asia that estimated the Crown Property Bureau’s assets at US$27.4 billion. Forbes said that figure is higher now that Thailand’s currency, the baht, has appreciated.
The Forbes report was widely panned in Thailand, where the king is generally revered and criticizing him is a crime. Bhumibol celebrated his 80th birthday in December and is the world’s longest-serving monarch.
“Stop (releasing) social junk, especially when you write about foreign countries,” a reader identified as King of King Reverer wrote on the Forbes Web site in response to the article. The “Thai King is not the wealthiest king in the world. Please do proper research. He’s the only king in the world who (gives) the most he could to all Thais.”
In Thai Internet discussion groups, most people criticized the report and used the opportunity to praise the king.
“How much wealth (the king) has is irrelevant and meaningless,” one reader identified as Thai Texan wrote on Pantip.com, one of the country’s leading Internet discussion sites. “I’m sure the king cares for the well-being of his people.”
The closest anyone came to criticizing the king’s wealth was an anonymous reader who posted a link to the country’s Finance Ministry Web site in response to a suggestion that the monarchy doesn’t receive taxpayer money.
It showed that Thai taxpayers contribute 2 billion baht (US$59 million) each year to the monarchy.
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