Thaksin and the Order of the Phoenix


  • Letters
  • Sunday, 22 Jun 2003

By THANONG KHANTHONG

BANGKOK: Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is, once again, trying to triumph over his destiny. He will do so by confronting the Order of the Phoenix. Next week, his Cabinet will endorse the launch of the Vayuphak Fund, which is expected to raise Bt100bil to give distressed Thai assets an eternal life. 

Thaksin has already resolved the mystery of the “Thai curse” in the Chamber of Secrets. Recently, it was quite revealing to Thais when they came to realise from the Chamber of Secrets that Thailand's bright future depends on how they work harder and smarter. 

Now to move his magical powers up to the next phase: Thaksin is to breathe life into the Vayuphak, a mythical bird in classical Thai literature. Vayuphak is similar to the Phoenix, which burns itself into ashes every 500 years and then is born again. 

But beware, the Vayuphak is about to be born again after a deep sleep of 500 years. 

In strict translation from the ancient Sanskrit language, the Vayuphak is a bird that lives on air. Sometimes the Vayuphak is called by another name, Karavek. This mythical bird lives in paradise. Its head, hands and feet are similar to the Krutha, the symbol of the King. Its wings grow out of its bottom. Its tail looks like tamarind leaves but extends outward like peacock feathers. 

MAGICAL REVIVALS: Thaksin is to bring life to the Thai economy by setting up the Vayuphak Fund. Vayuphak is a mystical bird in classical Thai literature.

The Vayuphak is the symbol of both the Finance Ministry and Krung Thai Bank. It has been in a deep, deep sleep. But now Thaksin is about to give it a wake-up call to help out troubled Thai businesses. 

The Finance Ministry will contribute 10% to 30% of the Vayuphak Fund. Financial institutions will pitch in 40% and the Thai public 30%. Its size might eventually reach a staggering Bt100bil. 

The Thaksin government has signalled that the fund would function similarly to the Government Investment Corporation of Singapore. Yet there is a big gap between the two. The GIC manages Singapore's international reserves, ploughing the investment into strategic businesses overseas. 

Before the 1997 crisis, the Bank of Thailand used to have professionals such as JP Morgan to manage its international reserves, but the amount was small, roughly US$500mil. Most of the Thai central bank's reserves went to subscribing to low-yield but rather safe US treasuries. 

The genesis of the Vayuphak Fund will spring out of the “dead assets” of the Finance Ministry, which holds dormant securities in state enterprises and other assets. These securities would be used as the seed capital for the fund. Then financial institutions and the investing public would be invited to contribute their share. 

The Thai public should be happy that the Vayuphak Fund is yet another Project of the Great Benevolence of the government. 

Instead of losing money by saving it in a bank, where they get a negative return after inflation, they should rise from the ashes with the Phoenix.  

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