As their fortunes fall, wealthiest Thais asked to help others survive the pandemic
To be sure, even before the prime minister’s request some of the super-rich were making much-appreciated donations toward the anti-virus effort (see box), but it’s hard to see how significant assistance in propping up the economy can come without a much stiffer price tag. Maybe we’ll get to see what lies underneath all the ad campaigns designed to show off the social conscience of Thailand’s captains of industry.
By Maxmilian Wechsler
To read related article: THAILAND’S SIX PACK- THE POWERFUL THAI-CHINESE FAMILIES WHO DOMINATE THE COUNTRY’S BUSINESS SCENE
Among the country’s extravagantly rich, mostly Thai-Chinese families, six stand above the rest in terms of the enormous power and influence they exert on the lives of their close to 70 million country residents in the realms of politics, economics, media, entertainment, sports and other sectors. A tale of the dwindling mega-fortunes of these six families isn’t likely to evoke much sympathy at a time when millions of Thais are poised on the brink of abject poverty, but it might help to shine a light on the true state of the Thai economy and prospects for a complete economic recovery.
The Chearavanont, Yoovidhya, Sirivadhanabakdi, Chirathivat, Srivaddhanaprabha and Bhirombhakdi families are ranked one, two, three, four, six and fifteen respectively on the 2020 list of ‘Thailand’s 50 Richest’. Their combined net worth is $73 billion, down $20 billion from 2019.
It is almost certain that since the March 13 cutoff date of Forbes’ list the fortunes of almost all of the country’s wealthiest citizens followed the same downward slope as pretty much everyone else in the country. Bangkok was ordered into lockdown on March 26 and a nationwide curfew was ordered on April 3. Other measures put in effect by the central government, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and provincial governors have also had a chilling effect on the economy.
- The Chearavanont brothers of Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group continue to top Forbes list although their net worth dipped by $2.2 billion, to $27.3 billion.
- Next on the list is Chalerm Yoovidhya, who, along with his family co-owns energy drink brand Red Bull (under TCP Group), the only one of the six whose net worth actually increased, by $300 million to $20.02 billion over last year, when Chalerm was ranked third on Forbes’ list.
- Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi’s Thai Beverage PCL (better known as ThaiBev) net worth plunged from $16.2 billion to $10.5 billion to drop to third richest.
- The net worth of Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, chairman and CEO of King Power, declined from $4.7 billion to $3.8 billion, but he remains sixth on the list
- Santi Bhirombhakdi of Boon Rawd Brewery fame saw his net worth fall from $2.25 billion to $1.86 billion, putting him at number fifteen.
How contributions from Thailand’s richest families are helping to curb the spread of COVID-19
• (March 10) Ms Chooratn and other CPF executives presented food products to the Royal Thai Navy to use in its quarantine operations. Navy spokesman Vice Admiral Sirisawad was on hand to accept the donation.
• (March 13) Mr Jiumjaiswanglerg, CPF Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee and Ms Chooratn, Senior Vice President, handed over quality food products to medical staff at Police General Hospital. The food products were received by Director of the hospital, Pol Lt Gen Dr Nitiwarangkult.
• (March 13) Mr Boondoungprasert handed over food products for Siriraj Hospital’s staffs. Asst Prof.Vamvanit, Director of Siriraj Hospital, was the hospital representative at the handover ceremony. Mr Boondoungprasert said the company appreciates the dedication of all medical staffs in their fight against COVID-19. Currently, it supplying foods to 20,000 individuals suspected of having COVID-19.
• (March 18) CPF’s Chief Financial Officer Paisan Chirakitcharern, Mr Sujarit Mayalarp, Executive Vice President, and the company’s managements delivered food supplies as a part of “CPF’s food from the heart against COVID-19” project to staffs of Bamrat Naradun Hospital. The products were received by the Deputy Director-General of the National Department of Disease Control (DDC) Dr Kaewjarus, Dr Patanavanichanan, Senior Adviser at Ministry of Public Health, and managements of the hospital.
• (March 20) CPF announced it had made deliveries of food products to about 40 public hospitals nationwide and was continuing food assistance to people under watch for COVID-19 infection. In addition, the company had teamed up with True Corporation to provide 30-day SIM cards to those affected by the virus.
• (March 25) CPF Executive Committee Chairman Sripratak, and Executive Director Janthanakul donated 5.7 million baht to Ramathibodi Foundation, under the royal patronage of Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, to procure medical equipment and necessary supplies. The donation was received by Dr Simaroj, Assistant Dean for Medicine at Ramathibodi Hospital, at CP Tower Silom.
• (March 26) CP Executive Vice President Mayalarp announced that all CP Freshmart retail outlets would
put in place preventive measures to combat COVID-19 and ensure the health and safety of staff and customers.
• (March 30) CPF announced the continuation of its ‘Food from the Heart’ project and said food products had been delivered to 70 public hospitals at no charge as an expression of gratitude to the frontline workers in the COVID-19 fight. In addition, CP Freshmart had been delivering quality food products to medical staffs on a daily basis since March 4, 2020 and the campaign was supplying food to people returning from overseas who were self-quarantining.
• (April 2) Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Chalermchai Sri-on, as the Ministry’s representative, and CPF jointly handed over food supplies for Bang Khun Thian Hospital. He also praised the project for its effort to aid medical staffs during COVID-19 outbreak and remarked that the ministry will continue to support “CPF's food from the heart against COVID-19” project, which currently providing quality food products to medical workers of more than 70 hospitals across the country to help alleviate the workload burden on them.
• (April 8) CPF announced that its ‘Food from the Heart’ program had reached out to 88 public hospitals nationwide since March 1. Moreover, the company has supported food supplies to over 20,000 people returning from abroad to 14 days self-quarantine.
• (April 10) Prime Minister’s Office Minister Mr Liptapallop, supervisor of the Consumer Protection Board, presided over MoU signing ceremony at Central by Centara Government Complex Hotel & Convention Centre to declare safety guidelines for food delivery, which were endorsed by CP Freshmart
Chalerm Yoovidhya & family
• Durbell Co., Ltd., a TCP Group company and one of Thailand’s leading consumer goods distributors, implemented new intensive measures for consumer goods distribution.
• In collaboration with TCP Group, King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital and the Red Cross Society, Durbell is delivering medical equipment including 100,000 Perma nano zinc face masks and 50 mobile disease testing booths, valued at 15 million baht, to major hospitals in Bangkok and provincial hospitals nationwide.
• (April 3) CEO Saravoot Yoovidhya together with Mr Srisuwankul, Managing Director of Roche Diagnostics (Thailand) Ltd., present the first automated analyzer in Thailand for screening the coronavirus, valued at 15 million baht, to King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital Director Professor Wacharasindhu, M.D. at the microbiology laboratory of Bhumisiri Mangkhalanusorn Building. The analyzer enhances speed and precision of disease diagnosis, with the capacity to analyze 1,440 samples per day with an accuracy of up to 99.8%. The automated system also reduces the risk of infection among medical personnel. After the COVID-19 crisis is over, the analyzer can be used to diagnose other viruses, including HIV, hepatitis and others which might emerge in the future.
• (March 18) ThaiBev offered 20 gallons of alcohol sanitizing products to Mahidol University Faculty of Dentistry (MUFD). The presentation took place in the HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn 50th Anniversary Building. Thai Beverage PLC representatives were welcomed by a MUFD delegation led by Asst. Prof. Lerdrit, Deputy Dean and Acting Deputy Dean for Academic Affairs and International Education, along with Asst. Prof.Dr Surarit, Deputy Dean for Research.
• (April 2) The Central Group donated 20 million baht in cash and 10 million baht worth of medical equipment/supplies to fight COVID-19. Moreover, Thai Watsadu, a division of Central Group of businesses, designed and developed a glass pod to cover hospital patients to reduce transmission of the virus. Central Restaurant Group (CRG) also donated foods, Centara Hotels and Resorts provided free accommodation, and Central Pattana made and delivered face shields to hospitals, while Tops donated N95 masks, face-shields, and sanitizing gel.
• (April 10) Central Food Retail, which operates Family Mart and Tops Daily, a part of Central Retail, introducing new initiatives with an aim to improving accessibility for consumers. Stephane Coum, CEO of Central Food Retail Group, said: “Convenience stores must always adapt. Our company is constantly improving ourselves, and we believe that in every crisis lies opportunity.” One new channel is automatic vending machines placed in front of stores which make it easier for customers to maintain safe distances.
Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha & family
• (March 20) Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Foundation President Mr Srivaddhanaprabha and the foundation committee also presented a 20 million baht donation to the Chakri Naruebodindra Medical Institute, under Mahidol University Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital. The donation was presented to Dr Piyamitr Sritara, Professor Mulpruek and Dr Boonkongchuen at King Power Rangnam.
• (March 24) Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Foundation President, presented a five million baht donation to support healthcare operations across Thailand to Dr Wattanayingcharoen, Director-General of the Department of Disease Control, at the Government House. Also present was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Health Anutin Charnvirakul.