In mid-August 2021, when the Budget Expenditures Bill 2022 passed to the committee stage, Prachatai released a report ‘Budget related to the monarchy in 2022 revealed: details according to the Budget Act’ which referenced data from the Bureau of the Budget’s Website. This is the third year that Prachatai has opened all budget documents to add up all the expenses related to the monarchy that are scattered among various agencies.
In summary, for 2022, the budget related to the monarchy allocated to various agencies totals approximately 35,760 million baht or 1.148% of the national budget (3,100,300 million baht), divided into 20,931 million baht in direct expenses and 14,829 million baht in indirect expenses. It must be noted that many of the indirect expenses involve projects for the public benefit. But referring to or claiming a connection to the monarchy may have a significance that the public can further analyse in many ways. For example, these projects may showcase the abilities of royal family members in various ways or be seen to improve the public relations of the monarchy in an indirect way, or it could lead to a project not being audited, etc.
During the first parliamentary reading of the 2022 budget, Move Forward Party (MFP) MP Benja Saengchan questioned the budget for the monarchy. She said that public agencies had allocated at least 33,712 million baht related to the monarchy according to projects listed in the draft budget documents. However, there are other monarchy-related for projects with budgets under 10 million baht and others which are hidden. The MFP MP demanded that public agencies not use the monarchy as a shield to avoid scrutiny from parliament. Benja added that she expects relevant public agencies to provide details of their expenses during the second reading and that two representatives from the Royal Agencies should be present during that session. On 22 July, Pita Limjaroenrat, MFP leader, in his capacity as a member of the parliamentary Budget Scrutiny Committee, revealed that a document of only 7 pages for the budget of the Royal Agencies was presented to the Committee, although in the previous year there were calls for more details to be provided. The MFP leader proposed that the budget should be suspended if there was no one to explain and no details, as it is money from the people’s taxes, which should be transparent and scrutinized in detail.
In the second reading on 21 August, four MFP MPS pointed out that the Royal Agencies’ budget, which is a large share of the budget for the monarchy, does not reveal any details and is not in line with the current Covid-19 pandemic crisis. They proposed that it should be cut in a proportion similar to other public agencies. However, most MPs disagreed with this proposal. Ruengkrai Leekitwattana, a ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPP) MP, subsequently filed a complaint with the Election Commission calling for the MFP to be dissolved. He claimed that the MFP proposal to cut the Royal Agencies’ budget is against the democratic system of governance with the King as Head of State.
For the 2022 fiscal year, the budget allocated directly for the monarchy, such as for security, construction within royal palace grounds, etc., appears little changed from the year before (2020), as seen in the following table.
Comparison of direct expenses from 2020-2022 (million baht)
|Public Agencies/ functions||2020||2021||2022|
|(Royal Thai Police) Strategic plan to reinforce security for the pillar institution of the nation||1,976||1,650||2,119|
|(Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning) Projects related to the royal palace grounds||2,378||1,700||1,500|
|(Secretariat of the Cabinet) The King and royal family members receive the highest safety and convenience||5,528||5,184||3,523|
|(Office of the Permanent Secretary for Defence) Support for security for the King and operations according to His Majesty’s intentions||1,201||1,218||1,296|
|(Central Budget) Royal travel and receiving foreign royal guest||1,000||1,000||800|
|(Secretariat of the Cabinet) Efficient operations related to coordination with Royal Officers (related to royal decorations)||506||496||412|
|(ISOC) Reinforcement of security for the pillar institution of the nation||-||80||21|
Source: Bureau of the Budget website
A look at the details for each agency shows more interesting data.
1. Royal Agencies
Starting from 6,391 million in 2018 and continuing to increase until fiscal year 2025, it is estimated that the Royal Agencies will receive more than 10,000 million baht.
A comparison of budgets for 2018-2022 and budget estimates for 2022-2024 (unit: million baht)
Details of expenses do not appear in the budget draft of only 7-pages but the agencies’ responsibilities are:
- conduct secretarial work for the King, in both governmental affairs and the personal affairs of the King and royal family members, including secretarial work for the Privy Council;
- organise royal ceremonies, state ceremonies, ceremonies, and royal charity events, including royal travel;
- coordinate between the institution of the monarchy and the government, parliament, government agencies and various organisations both within and outside the country as well as the people in an orderly fashion;
- conduct work related to requests for royal benevolence on various issues and respond to royal commands related to relieving the suffering of the people;
- publicise widely royal duties, arts, culture, and traditions among the public both within and outside the country;
- manage funds, projects and benefits of royal palace property under the management of the Bureau of the Royal Household, including temples under royal patronage as well as property of royal family members at the King’s pleasure; and
- any other duties at the King’s command.
2. Royal Thai Police
The Royal Thai Police is an agency directly under the Prime Minister’s supervision. It receives a budget of 114,879 million baht. Interestingly, its primary mission is 1) to provide security to the King and royal family members, followed by 2) to enforce the law and facilitate justice, and 3) to protect the peace and order and security of the kingdom.
The Royal Thai Police has many missions and plans. One of these is a strategic plan to reinforce security of the pillar institution of the nation. For the 2022 budget, this is allocated 2,119 million baht of which 1,961 million baht is for providing security.
For the 2022 budget, this security operation has 2 performance indicators:
At least 4,000 police officers who have undergone local CAT (Counter Assault Team) training for providing royal security each year from 2021 to 2025.
Provision of royal security befitting the King’s intentions.
* results for fiscal year 2021 (6 months)
** The 2022 budget is based on an estimate of the costs of current missions and plans, which will affect the 2023-2025 budget.
One detail in the capital budget is found to be a project to build the headquarters of the Ratchawallop Police Retainers King's Guard 904 (King’s Close Bodyguard Command), Central Investigation Bureau, in Lat Phrao District with a 2022 budget of 174,177,000 baht, a construction project for a tactical training centre for the Ratchawallop Police Retainers King's Guard 904 in Ban Mai Subdistrict, Pak Kret District, Nonthaburi Province, with a budget of 257,440,000 baht, and a budget of 187,746,000 baht for rewards for officials serving as bodyguards, and for various procurement and systems such as surveilling and monitoring individual situations.
3. Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning
The Department of Public Works and Town & Country Planning has a total budget of 1.5 billion baht for a project to support special royal activities (in accordance with strategic plans to reinforce security and stability of the main pillar of the nation). In the 2022 budget bill, the phrase ‘within palace grounds’ was deleted, unlike the 2020 and 2021 versions.
4. Secretariat of the Prime Minister
The Secretariat of the Prime Minister set the 2022 budget at 4,357,954,000 baht, almost all of which, 3,522,971,900 baht, is to be spent on basic security plans. The objective is that the King and royal family receive the highest security.
In the details, we find that over 2,300 million is for expenses in equipment, land, construction, and in this amount is the substantial cost of helicopters for royal use and planes for VIP use. The budget is divided into commitments over many years.
1 Three helicopters for royal use, including other necessary expenses, Si Kan Subdistrict, Don Mueang District, Bangkok: 248,345,500 baht Total budget: 3,170,633,700 baht
2018-2019 budget: 1,889,501,600 baht
2020 budget: 890,232,100 baht
2021 budget: 142,554,500 baht
2022 budget: 248,345,500 baht
2 Two helicopters for accompanying royal travel, including other necessary expenses, Si Kan Subdistrict, Don Mueang District, Bangkok: 531,287,900 million baht
Total budget: 2,834,217,400 baht
2019 budget: 549,441,100 baht
2020 budget: 786,153,300 baht
2021 budget: 967,335,100 baht
2022 budget: 531,287,900 baht
In addition, another 1,567,553,100 baht is allocated for other expenses related to helicopters and planes for royal use, etc.
5. Ministry of Defence
The Ministry’s performance indicators and goals specify that the monarchy is provided the highest security and receives befitting honour with a budget of 1,719,050,400 baht distributed across the main agencies of the Ministry, such as the Office of the Permanent Secretary, the Royal Thai Army, the Royal Thai Navy, the Royal Thai Air Force, and the Royal Thai Armed Forces.
The Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence has a 1,296,352,000 baht budget for supporting security for the monarchy. In addition, there are projects to protect the honour of the monarchy and activities at the King’s pleasure of the Office of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, the Royal Thai Army, the Royal Thai Navy, the Royal Thai Air Force, and the Royal Thai Armed Forces, with budgets of 22.95 million, 266.41 million, 45.49 million, 35.93 million, and 51.89 million baht respectively.
For 2022 indirect expenses, there is great diversity with projects in line with the missions of each organisation, but similar projects allocated to different agencies can be categorised as follows:
- Royal Project Foundation/royal projects/projects related to the sufficiency economy: 11,937 million baht
- Projects to glorify the monarchy, fostering a consciousness of revering the monarchy: 299 million baht
- TO BE NUMBER ONE Project: 191 million baht
- Plant genetic conservation / rare plants projects under the patronage of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn: 277 million baht
- Rabies elimination project under the patronage of Professor Dr HRH Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol: 455 million baht
- Other projects in various agencies: 1,671 million baht
In addition, there are also found projects which are partly related to the monarchy by their name and objectives or projects which cannot be categorized. For example, in the Office of the National Water Resources, the operational expenses of a 2022 capacity building project to build an organisational culture against corruption has attached to the project objectives “through the royal science and philosophical principles of the sufficiency economy.”
For further details can be seen in the Thai version.