The world’s longest-reigning monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, was hospitalized in Bangkok in May. While he is a constitutional monarch with no formal political role, Forbes estimated his net wealth in excess of $30 billion, beating oil-rich Brunei’s Sultan as well as most of the Arabian Gulf’s heads of state. Crown Property Bureau (CPB), which manages the crown’s property and investments, accounts for the vast majority of the King’s wealth. It controls an estimated 40% of all property in Bangkok’s central business district, and also maintains large equity stakes in many blue chips on the Thai Stock Exchange, such as Siam Cement.
Thailand’s 87-year-old king ascended to the throne in 1946 following the death of his elder brother, Ananda Mahidol, when he was shot and killed in his bedroom in the Grand Palace complex in Bangkok – a crime which was never investigated. Strict lèse–majesté laws ban any criticism of him or the royal family. Thailand is currently governed by the military, which took power in a coup last year.