Thai Prime Minister Uses Religious Superstition to Ward Off Occult

Prayuth Chan Ocha

Before moving into Bangkok’s Government House, the newly elected Prime Minister of Thailand Prayuth Chan Ocha has gone to great lengths to rid the residence of everything occult. The 60-year-old Ocha has left nothing to chance since heading a bloodless military coup to bring down a democratically elected government on May 22. Like many other politicians in Thailand, Ocha too, believes in divination and spiritualism, which is why several members of his entourage were seen carrying religious idols and statues of Buddha that are thought to bring good luck into the Prime Minister’s new residence.

However, Ocha’s beliefs defy the usual and conventional in Thailand. Last week, he spoke of how he had bathed in holy water once because his enemies had allegedly cursed him. Yet, army officials have tried to reassure Thai citizens that Ocha’s views on spirits and rituals will not influence government policies.

“Like most Thais, General Prayuth has a deep respect for the spirit world, but his policies will be determined by urgency, practicality and the needs of the people,” said Veerachon Sukhontapatipak, deputy spokesman for the army.

Even though Thailand appears to be rather modern, its everyday life encompasses pre-Buddhist animist beliefs till date, so much so that the timing of Ocha moving into his office has been planned minute by minute. The fact that his cabinet commenced work at 9 a.m. on September 9 was no coincidence. The number nine, which is pronounced Gaow in Thailand, is considered an auspicious number in the country.

The furniture in his office, too, has been arranged after consulting feng shui experts. Feng shui is the Chinese form of geomancy that predominantly revolves around five basic elements – earth, fire, water, wood and metal.

“Prayuth's work table has been placed in the east of the work room as this is thought to aid quick solutions. ... The tones in the building will mostly be green, as this is the army's color and Prayuth, as army chief, is compatible with green,” said a prime ministerial aide, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to media.

However, critics have said that the existence of such beliefs has often proves to be detrimental to democracy. According to them, the course of politics should be determined by the will of the living and not on their belief in stars and spirits.

“It is not uncommon to use astrologers to decide what day and time to stage a coup, for example. ... It's not just Prayuth, it's all Thai leaders, and it can be a dangerous (course to take) because, instead of analyzing a situation according to facts and the political situation on the ground, they might rely on astrology instead and worsen a volatile situation,” said Kan Yuenyong, an analyst at Siam Intelligence Unit think tank.

Photo Credits: Wikimedia

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