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Thailand seeks US$251m for palace budget, a 13% hike
[BANGKOK] Thailand plans to allocate more than US$251 million for monarchy "security" in the 2020 budget, a hike of more than 13 per cent year-on-year, according to figures confirmed by a government spokesperson on Thursday.
The proposal, which still needs parliamentary approval, comes four months after 67-year-old King Maha Vajiralongkorn was crowned in an elaborate ceremony.
It is also the first budget under the staunchly pro-royalist administration of Prayut Chan-O-Cha, a former coup maker turned civilian premier after a disputed poll.
The funds for the palace were included in a proposal released by the budget bureau, which provided no detailed breakdown on how the money would be used and were labelled only "security fundamentals".
The Cabinet agreed on the 2020 figures Tuesday, government spokesperson Narumon Pinyosinwat told AFP.
"Next there will be a drafting of the budget bill which will be proposed to the parliament around the end of this year," she said, adding that the numbers are likely to be the same.
There are planned increases in defence, finance and interior ministries, and a slight decrease in education.
King Vajiralongkorn inherited one of the world's wealthiest and most powerful monarchies from his beloved father Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October 2016.
Experts say his reign has been more assertive than the revered Bhumibol, who was on the throne for 70 years.
The royal security detail was quadrupled and beefed up to number more than 1,600, authorities announced last year.
The new king took control of the Crown Property Bureau (CPB), which has assets in banks, companies and prime real estate that experts estimate to be worth US$30-US$60 billion.
Royal family finances remain a closely guarded secret, and the king is shielded from public scrutiny and criticism by a royal defamation law that carries up to 15 years per count.
But Thais are still fascinated by palace life.
Photos of the newly crowned king's royal consort showing the 34-year-old former royal bodyguard and army nurse in camouflage fatigues, taking part in military drills and flying a small plane went viral last month.