BANGKOK – The Thai parliament gave King Vajiralongkorn sole control over multi-billion dollars worth crown assets, in a latest move by the monarch to expand his influence eight months after ascending the throne.
The country’s rubber stamp parliament, handpicked by the military junta ruling the country since 2014, approved on Sunday the first amendment to the law, first since 1948, governing the Crown Property Bureau, which manages the royal family’s properties and investments.
According to the amendment, only the king will be able to appoint or remove members of the board of directors of the bureau and none of his assets can be taken away without his consent.
Until now, the country’s finance minister was the chair of the board that managed the monarchy’s assets, valued by Forbes at approximately $30 billion.
The amendment follows another measure, approved in May, which allowed the king to take control of five state agencies that until then were controlled by the Prime Minister’s Office, the Defense Ministry and the police.
These reforms come after the new king requested changes to the draft constitution, backed by the military junta, that will give him more powers before the royal sign-off.
Vajiralongkorn was proclaimed king of Thailand on Dec. 1, 2016 after the death of his father, Bhumibol Adulyadej, on Oct. 13 of that year, but he will not be crowned until the late king’s cremation ceremony on Oct. 26, 2017.
The new king has lived most of his life abroad and does not enjoy the same popularity among the Thai people as his father.
The wealth of the Thai crown is rarely discussed or debated in the country owing to the strict lèse-majesté law that prohibits any criticism of the royal family.