Thanathorn demands answers over budget increase for Royal office

PHOTO: Khaosod English

Progessive movement leader and former head of the now-defunct Future Forward Party Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has been banned from politics for 10 years… but he’s still making his voice heard in the halls of power. In his capacity as an advisor to the House committee examining the budget bill, he questioned the justification for the increase in the budget for the Royal Office – the organisation directly under His Majesty the King. Thanathorn called the increase “alarming” given the current economic situation and demanded answers.

The outspoken businessman-turned-politician was disqualified as an MP last year after the Constitutional Court found him guilty of violating the election law by having shares in a media company when applying to run in the last general elections. And in February he saw his Future Forward Party dissolved by the same court, which also banned him along with other party executives from politics for 10 years.

But despite his political setbacks, Thanathorn continues to make his voice heard in the House as an advisor of the House budget committee, representing the opposition Move Forward Party de facto replacement for the Future Forward Party.

Normally, budgets for royal agencies are approved with little or no deliberation out of respect for the Monarchy. Not this time, with Thanathorn’s presence on the budget committee.

Thanathorn is known for his strong stand on the Monarchy which he believes should be “more accountable.” He noted in a Thursday Facebook post that normally, top executives of government agencies are required to be present to defend their budget before the House committee, but traditionally, no administrators of the Royal Office have ever appeared before the committee. And as in the past, the Royal Office was on Thursday represented by officials of the Budget Bureau.

Thanathorn said the budget for the Royal Office for 2021 is 8.9 billion baht, a significant jump of 16.8% from the 7.6 billion baht for this year. He described the increase as “alarming”, considering that the overall national budget for 2021 represents an increase of only 3.1%. He noted that the Budget Bureau spent only 2 minutes presenting the budget and gave no details.

Looking back over the years, the outspoken former politician said, budgets for the Royal Office have increased at startling rates, by far outstripping those of inflation and economic growth.

Thanathorn posted that he questioned the officials of the Budget Bureau whether such increases are appropriate, and whether they in any way diminish the honour of the monarchy.

“As the people are still suffering from economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic, such a sharp increase in the budget for the Royal Office would only have a negative impact on the honour of the monarchy.”

Thanathorn said he recommended the increase for the Royal Office be limited to 3.1% – the same as for the overall national budget.

“My intention is to help make the Royal Institution continue to be held in high esteem by the people.”

He said by agreeing to cut down the budget for the Royal Office, the Royal Institution would be seen as sharing the suffering of the people, further enhancing the honour of the Monarchy.

Among the major agencies within the Royal Office are Office of His Majesty’s Privy Council, Bureau of the Royal Household and Royal Security.

Despite his suggestion, the House committee endorsed the budget for the Royal Office with no changes.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World

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