BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s junta plans to allocate more than $123 million for the monarchy in the 2018 budget, an apparent cut of more than 14 percent from this year, figures published on Thursday showed.
Thailand makes public few details of the finances for its monarchy, whose assets, estimated at more than $40 billion, rank it among the world’s richest.
Since taking the throne in December, King Maha Vajiralongkorn has set about restructuring the palace and in April, parliament agreed to transfer to him control of royal agencies managed by the prime minister and defense ministry.
A draft of the annual budget allocated 4.19 billion baht ($123 million) to the monarchy for “security fundamentals”, but gave no explanation of what this comprises.
The figure compares to 4.89 billion baht for the fiscal year from October 2016 to September 2017, a decrease of more than 14 percent. Last year, the figure was given under national security as being for “upholding and preserving the monarchy”.
It was not made clear whether funding on any of the other budget lines would directly or indirectly benefit the palace.
By comparison, Britain’s Royal Household said its sovereign grant for the year to March 2016 was around 40 million pounds ($52 million), though that does not cover costs such as security.
The new Thai figures were revealed in a 2.9-trillion-baht draft budget submitted to parliament by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. It had already been approved by the cabinet.
The king inherited the throne last year following the death of his revered father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose reign spanned seven decades.
His major staffing changes include appointments this week of 10 civil servants to new posts, as well as a fourteenth member to the Privy Council advisory body. The new addition is an armed forces officer, like most of the panel, as is the king.
The wealth of the Thai crown is rarely discussed in Thailand, where strict royal insult laws make criticism of the monarchy a crime. But two recent studies value the crown’s assets and corporate holdings at more than $40 billion.
The monarchy’s household and finances are managed by the Bureau of the Royal Household and the secretive Crown Property Bureau, a quasi-government agency.
On its website, the Crown Property Bureau says it manages properties that “do not belong to the monarch in his or her private capacity, but to the monarchy as an institution”.
Income generated from the Crown Property is used “firstly for expenditures for the upkeep of the royal family, and thereafter, at the monarch’s discretion.”
The monarch’s personal assets are managed separately.
Preserving the monarchy and maintaining the military’s role as its protector has been a key theme for Prayuth’s administration, which seized power from an elected government in 2014 in the name of ending months of political unrest.
(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre, Panarat Thepgumpant and Patpicha Tanakasempipat; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Clarence Fernandez)