News / Asia

Thai Politics Challenges Fortune-Tellers

Thai Politics Challenges Fortune-Tellersi
June 19, 2014 6:04 AM
In Thailand, fortune-tellers have long been sought out for spiritual advice and guidance. But since last month’s military takeover of the country, even spiritual ceremonies can take on political overtones. Steve Sandford reports.
In Thailand, fortune-tellers have long been sought out for spiritual advice and guidance. But since last month’s military takeover of the country, even spiritual ceremonies can take on political overtones.
Given the uncertainty following the May 22 coup, many are seeking guidance from spiritualists and fortune tellers.
Popular Thai soothsayer Varin Buaviratlert says he got his calling early in life.
"When I was 9 years old, my spirit travelled outside my body and I could see myself through a vision," he said. "Since then, I have studied the supernatural."
More than 40 years later, the clairvoyant offers his predictions to Thailand’s affluent, including the country’s top brass.
Varin performed a special "life-prolonging" ceremony for the victorious generals of a 2006 military coup. Today, the soothsayer claims he has visions of the new military ruler, Army General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who has granted himself all executive and legislative power.
"In a vision, I saw General Prayuth was a great soldier for King Narasuan and I was involved with him, too," Varin said. "I saw the vision from the past life when we fought together and now we are born again in this life to save the country."
A clouded future

But in the northern voting strongholds of ousted caretaker government leader Yingluck Shinawatra, some see little to be happy about.

A deeply flawed rice-subsidy program recently was scrapped by the military rulers, leaving growers worried that profits will go elsewhere.
"In the past year, the rice scheme benefited the farmers," said one of them, Kham Lalirm. "If there is no pledging project, the middleman will push the price lower and only they will keep the money in their pockets."
The army announced Wednesday that it had developed an alternate plan to help rice growers, Reuters reported. Otherwise, the government remains tight-lipped about its future policies.

It has ordered village chiefs to report any suspicious activities, especially those by the Red Shirts – largely rural supporters of Shinawatra’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra. Thailand’s exiled former prime minister, unseated in the 2006 coup, championed populist causes such as health care and food subsidies.

The Red Shirts politically oppose the largely urban, affluent Yellow Shirts, who support traditional structures including the monarchy and military.    
The two colors have taken on increased significance since the most recent coup.  
Phor Tamkham, a spiritualist, said that when he "put up a red flag to mark where our spirit ceremony was,  the soldiers came to our festival, asking us if we were involved with Red Shirt political activists."
For now, the military has managed to silence the critics.
But many Thai academics predict the country could unravel rapidly if voices from the rural majority are ignored.
They just aren’t allowed to say it publicly.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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Comment Sorting
by: Khun Hunter from: VA
June 19, 2014 9:48 PM
The red shirt do not appose the yellow shirts (PDRC). The Yellow shirts/Bangkok elite/PDRC oppose the Red Shirts/Shinawatras. The Red Shirts oppose the continuous nullification of the Constitutionally elected Government through the use of the Military, the appointed Thai Senate and the corrupt appointment of Judges by the Thai Senate. The judges then choose to selectively prosecute Red Shirts but allow the Yellow shirts to run free.

by: Ajahn from: Thailand
June 19, 2014 9:52 AM
Always the idea that 'The Red Shirts politically oppose the largely urban, affluent Yellow Shirts, who support traditional structures including the monarchy and military. Anybody looking at a map of the Thai political divide, will see that the complete South of the country opposes the Thaksin regime. All of them. Too call the south of the country more affluent then the North or North-East is also wrong. There are many poor people in Southern Thailand, but none of them suppports the Pheua Thai or the Red Shirts. The political divide in Thailand is NOT based on rich against poor.

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