Politicians and their families, especially some people close to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her government after the latest reshuffle on October 28, rank among the richest stockholders in the country.
Appearing among the 5,737 millionaires as of September, according to a survey of investors in the Stock Exchange of Thailand by Money and Banking Magazine in collaboration with professors from Chulalongkorn University, are Yingluck’s two nieces, who are daughters of her big brother and former prime minister Thaksin.
The younger niece, Paethongtarn Shinawatra, was ranked 47th with her 29-per-cent holding in SC Asset worth Bt3.46 billion, while Pinthongta Shinawatra was 53rd with a 28-per-cent stake in the same real-estate company worth Bt3.35 billion.
They benefited from the 65-per-cent surge in SC Asset’s stock to Bt18 apiece as of September 30. This raised the Shinawatras to 27th among stock billionaire families from 30th in the previous year.
Pojaman na Pombejra, Thaksin’s ex-wife, fell to 502nd this year from 467th although her 2.8-per-cent stake in the family business accounted for Bt333.11 million, up 50 per cent.
Pongthep Thepkanjana, deputy prime minister and education minister, has his wife and daughter on the list. Yapa was ranked 244th with a 2.1-per-cent interest in Kiatnakin Bank worth Bt795.50 million, while his wife Panida was 264th with a 1.9-per-cent stake worth Bt728.08 million in the bank.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung has two sons on the list – Artharn at 1,811st with a 2.6-per-cent stake worth Bt58.28 million in Unimit Engineering, and Duang at 2,213rd with 1.8 per cent or Bt38.60 million in the same company.
Heading up the stock-exchange billionaires were the same faces. Thongma Vijitpongpun, president and chief executive officer of Pruksa Real Estate, was the richest for the third straight year with equities worth Bt23.5 billion. Most of his stocks (58.6 per cent worth Bt23.31 billion) were in his company, with minor holdings of 1.1 per cent in Quality Houses and 0.7 per cent in Seafco.
The Maleenont family was this year’s champion for the 14th year in a row. With a 108-per-cent jump in BEC World this year, the family’s stock wealth soared by 108 per cent, or Bt36.46 billion, to Bt70.26 billion.
They were followed by the Chirathivats with Bt40.87 billion, up 92 per cent, and the Vijitpongpuns with Bt28.09 billion, up 27 per cent.
Thailand’s 40 richest people have a collective wealth of US$55 billion (Bt1.73 trillion), an increase of 22 per cent from $45 billion last year, according to Forbes magazine.
Forbes noted that many of Thailand's wealthiest are looking to take on international rivals, on the strength of an expected 6-per-cent growth in the Thai economy this year. For a country that some outsiders see as beset by political turmoil and rural insurgency - never mind last year's calamitous flooding - Thailand has done remarkably well by its richest.