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Saturday February 21, 2009

Cleansing bad karma from a past life

Loyal followers of self-exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra held a Lanna-style rite for his safe return to Thailand.

TWO pig’s heads, three boiled chickens, rice, lao khao (Thai whisky), fruits, sweets and coins were placed on a table as offerings before a half-metre tall golden Buddha statue at Wat Umong, a Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai.

On the base of the statue was the statement: “Chao Moon Muang and Chao Sin demand power to be returned to Chao Chai (prince) Sika. Let’s forgive one another.”

Beside the offerings was a framed photo of Thaksin Shinawatra, a former Thai prime minister who has been in self-exile since August last year to avoid corruption charges.

On Tuesday, in a Lanna-style rite – which The Nation described as “a combination of animism, voodoo and Buddhism” – the abbot of Wat Umong and eight monks chanted and prayed to “correct” Thaksin’s bad karma and ward off evil coming his way.

General Chaisit Shinawatra, a former army chief and Thaksin’s cousin, presided over the ceremony witnessed by about 300 Thaksin loyalists who were mostly wearing red, the colour of the anti-government movement.

According to the Bangkok Post on Wednesday, following the prayers was a ritual performed by a 50-something trance medium dressed in white.

She told the crowd while in a trance that in his past life, Thaksin was Chao Moon Muang, a local king who lived 100 years ago.

Chao Moon Muang, the medium said, had inherited bad karma when he killed his Burmese enemies and plundered their treasures, including Buddha images.

The bad karma had followed Thaksin to his current life, and that was why the fugitive billionaire politician was facing misfortune, the woman was quoted by Bangkok Post as saying.

A Thaksin loyalist shouted, “When will Thaksin return?”

“The lady, who then claimed to be speaking on behalf of the late ruler, said, ‘He will return, but now he is ordered not to’,” The Nation reported.

Later, General Chaisit told reporters that the ritual would cleanse Thaksin of his past bad karma; after being rid of his bad karma, Thaksin would return to Thailand.

However, he said he did not know when it would happen.

General Chaisit also rejected a report that Thaksin needed the rite to be performed because he was in poor health.

The Bangkokian, a columnist with The Nation, disagreed with the medium’s contention that Thaksin’s misfortune was due to his action in his past life.

“Bangkokian would like to argue that Thaksin is in fact paying the price for deeds committed in his present life – such as tax evasion and political conflict of interest,” the columnist wrote on Thursday.

The Bangkok Post reported that Thaksin, ousted in a 2006 coup, was a deeply superstitious man.

“A few years back, while still in power, he staged a religious ritual at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha which provoked criticism from his critics that his conduct was improper,” the news report said.

“Also, he once held a Cabinet meeting at the Phnom Rung ruins in Buri Ram, the hometown of his former right-hand man, Newin Chidchob, supposedly to seek divine blessings to strengthen his grip on power.”

The Bangkok Post article continued: “However, it remains to be seen whether the Almighty has heard the prayers and respond to them and come to Thaksin’s rescue.

“And for the time being, he has to hop from one country to another like a vagabond – as he had described himself – and the only means that he has to keep in contact with his loyalists is through his regular phone-ins.”

The Irrawaddy news magazine reported that critics have alleged that Thaksin fell from power because his karma changed as he did not hold “proper” rituals.

The Lanna-style ritual ended with Thaksin loyalists cursing his enemies after writing their names on pieces of paper which were then burnt inside a bowl, so that misfortune would befall them.

Among the names were that of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuagsuban, president of the Privy Council General Prem Tinsulanonda and People’s Alliance for Democracy leaders Chamlong Srimuang and Sondhi Limthongkul.

The ritual was also so that Thaksin could overcome his present life’s misfortunes and return safely to Thailand.

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