Sunday, June 14, 2009

Phra Phrom

'PM should back off or I'll reveal his secrets'Published on May 27, 2006

Senator Sophon Supapong yesterday said he was the keeper of two secrets concerning caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra that could prove the undoing of the Thai Rak Thai leader.Ads by GoogleSukhumvit Hotel DealAmari Boulevard from $74/ night Luxury hotel in central
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Sophon yesterday denied ever having leaked the so-called Finland Plot and dismissed allegations he had asked Thaksin for a large amount of money and been refused.

Thaksin told his Cabinet on Thursday Sophon had fabricated a story about the so-called Finland Plot because he was angry he had not received a large amount of money from Thaksin that he had asked for.

"I have never thought about setting up a fund by asking for money from the PM," Sophon said yesterday.

"I have never entertained such an idea, particularly with this PM.
Thaksin is making up stories to ruin my reputation,'' he said.

Sophon denied he had ever accused Thaksin of hiring someone to wreck the Brahmin shrine outside the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel because a Khmer fortune-teller had advised him to do so.

The senator said he and Thaksin had met at his home in Bangkok's Lat Phrao area four years ago because Thaksin had said he wanted to meet social critic Dr Prawase Wasi.

Sophon said he had arranged a meeting with Prawase and Lt-General Preecha Wannarat, then the deputy secretary-general of the PM's Office.
He said his family had also attended the meeting.

Sophon said that during the meeting he had been made privy to two secrets that, should he reveal them, would jeopardise Thaksin's political future.

"Thaksin shouldn't have told us these two things.
He must remember what he said.

"My sense of etiquette has always prevented me revealing what was said, because it might ruin him.

"But if Thaksin continues to sling mud, I'll be forced to tell the public what he said,'' said Sophon.

He said he was not the only one who had heard what Thaksin said - even Prawase had heard it.

"I have never accused anyone or any party of anything in relation to the Finland Plot.
I'm not involved, and I don't even want to know who is," he said.

He said Thaksin should stop listening to his close aides so exclusively and should stop defaming him.

Sophon said he hoped Thaksin improved his moral integrity so that he would not be forced to reveal his dark secrets.

Sophon, when put on the spot by reporters in relation to what Thaksin had said, refused to say any more.

"If Thaksin does not improve himself, I may have to reveal the two secrets, because they are very serious matters.
If I reveal them, I am not sure if Thaksin will be able to return to his post,'' he said.

Asked if Thaksin had already begun to act on the two matters, Sophon replied that he had.

He said he had heard all about the Finland Plot from many different people, particularly from within a group of October activists, and not from the People's Alliance for Democracy, as Thaksin believed.

Erawan Shrine statue restoredPublished on May 22, 2006

At the auspicious time of 11.39am yesterday, the restored statue of the Hindu god Thao Maha Phrom was replaced at Bangkok's famed Erawan shine. Hundreds of Thai and foreign worshippers looked on in falling rain. It was exactly two months yesterday that a mentally ill man smashed one of the city's most revered religious images.

He was later beaten to death by an angry mob.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra attended the ceremony at the Rajprasong intersection.

The Thao Maha Phrom statue - escorted by a procession of lion dancers and musicians - left the Fine Arts Department at 7.
It was paraded to the City Pillar Shrine, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Brahman Church of Bangkok, where holy water was poured on the statue.

At 11am, the procession arrived at the Erawan shine.
Thaksin, caretaker Culture Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and city Governor Apirak Kosayodhin were waiting.

More than 1,000 people, many of them dressed in white and adorned with garlands, crowded the shrine.
Others looked on from pedestrian flyovers and the BTS skywalk.

Many had been waiting since early morning.
Inbound lanes of Phloenchit Road were closed to traffic.

Folk dancers were accompanied by the sound of traditional Thai gongs.

As the world-famous statue was carried out, Brahma worship was performed before it was replaced at the renovated shrine at exactly 11.
39am, just as heavy rain started to fall.

"I feel so good to have a chance to worship Pra Phrom at such a special ceremony," said Thanatporn Khaomuey, 56, a BMA employee who had waited with three friends since 9am.

"I don't think I'll have another chance in my life to witness these rites at the minute the statue is placed at the shrine," she said.

Suthita Ladtai, 52, said she and friends followed the procession by taxi.
She hoped participating in the ceremony would bring her luck.

As the statue was moved from a vehicle to the shrine, worshippers threw flowers.
Some even noted down the registration number of the vehicle, in the hope it would provide lucky lottery numbers.

Surakiart said a copy of the statue had been made with nine different metals and was being kept at the National Museum, in case of another accident.

The shrine, built in 1956 to ward off bad luck at an adjacent hotel, is one of the country's most popular places of worship among Thais and tourists, especially those from Hong Kong and Singapore.

A 24-hour police guard will protect the renovated Erawan Shrine.

Chatrarat KaewmorakotHundreds of devotees rush to revered sitePublished on March 22, 2006

The sight of the Erawan Shrine devoid of its much-worshiped Great Brahma statue left many visitors baffled yesterday. Others were unable to hold back their tears when they saw with their own eyes what had happened.

Hundreds of believers continued to visit the shrine yesterday, their faith unshaken by the statue's destruction.

Early yesterday morning a man with a record of mental illness smashed the Great Brahma statue to pieces with a hammer.

The shrine's gate was shut and a cloth was draped over the shrine where the statue once stood, but crowds gathered on the footpath outside and left garlands hanging from the fence as they paid their respects.

Signs at the gate read: "The Erawan Shrine is temporarily closed.
We apologise for any inconvenience.
" The message was also printed in Chinese for the many Chinese tourists who visit the shrine each day.

A small photograph of the statue was pinned to the fence.

Staff took every offering left outside the shrine inside.

Officials, many from the Cultural Ministry, gathered at the shrine for a special ceremony that continued into the night.

"It's hard to believe it happened," said Viranya Aiemcharoen, who visited the shrine with her family in the morning after learning of the incident.
"My heart is filled with sorrow, so I came to pay respect to the gods again," she said.

Members of her family often asked for blessings at the shrine and were devastated by the statue's destruction, Viranya said.

Patsalin Sritan, a sales clerk, said she rushed to the shrine after a motorcycle taxi driver told her what had happened.

"I feel sorry for all Thais because the statue was much revered by Buddhists," she said.

Garland vendor Pinkaew Pipat-asa said people started arriving at about 4am to pay their tribute.
She immediately phoned her friends then rushed to the scene.

"I was shocked and my heart was broken .
I am a second-generation garland seller here, I've been here for about 40 years," she said.

During the past four decades she had only stopped selling garlands at the shrine twice - during the political uprisings in October 1973 and May 1992, she said.

Besides garland sellers, there are another 10 booths near the shrine selling lottery tickets and fruit.
The vendors intend to remain at the site.

The spirits would remain even though the statue was smashed, they said.

Chatrarat Kaewmorakot
The Nation
Thaksin era beset by evil omensPublished on March 22, 2006

A man with a record of mental disorder has just destroyed the sacred Phra Phrom statue of the Erawan Shrine in downtown Bangkok. The famous four-headed statue of Brahma, adjacent to the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, has been hammered to pieces. It is a shock to thousands of worshippers who come to the shrine to seek good fortune.
Some people say the destruction of the statue is just one of many evil omens hovering above the country.

The Thaksin Era, characterised by unfettered capitalism and greedy economic growth, has also been beset by bad omens.
They manifest themselves in different forms, symbols and natural disasters.
If a leader does not practise virtue and learning is absent among the populace, society will head into a series of crises.

One of the natural disasters in the Thaksin Era manifested itself as a plague destroying the city, or "ha kin muang".
We witnessed Sars and subsequently bird flu.
Then water started to flood the world, or nam thuam lok.
This manifested itself in The tsunami which killed more than 100,000 people in Thailand and elsewhere around the Indian Ocean.

People are facing greater hardship in their lives, a period characterised by skyrocketing prices for basic necessities (khao yak mak phaeng).

Another bad omen is phan din look pen phai (land turns into fire), which has been happening to Thailand's three southernmost provinces.
There, murders take place every day.
And people are also suffering from phan din yaek (cracks in the land), as they take sides in fiercely opposed political opinions.
The angel has taken flight from the city.
This is reflected in the destruction of the Phra Phrom statue.Man beaten to death after desecrating the Erawan ShrinePublished on March 22, 2006

A young Thai man, believed to be mentally ill, almost completely destroyed one of Bangkok's most revered religious images, the statue of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation, at Rajprasong intersection early yesterday morning, after which he was beaten to death by a group of angry bystanders. The Erawan shrine housing the statue is one of the city's most popular tourist spots and regularly attracts crowds of worshippers, both locals and tourists.

A new Brahma statue will be completed and placed in the shrine within two months.
However, the shrine will be open for the public to pay its respects from today with four photographs of the statue facing out from the shrine.

A decision has yet to be made about the material to be used for the new statue.
Plaster will keep its essence, but nine types of metal mixed with some surviving pieces of the old statue will ensure its durability.
Surviving fragments include the face, head and weapons, said Religious Affairs Department director-general Preecha Gungeeya.

Two street sweepers from Pathum Wan district office have been arrested and charged with the second-degree murder of Thanakorn Phakdeephol, whose father Sayant said he had a history of mental illness and had received psychiatric treatment six years ago when he was 21.

Sayant said his son disappeared from his house around midnight after showing the symptoms of mental illness.
He later heard a radio news report that a man with anti-allergy pills found in his pants had been beaten after destroying the Brahma statue.

"It kind of hit me, learning of that detail, so I went to the [Lumpini] police station and found out that it was my son.

"I feel sorry that he destroyed the Brahma statue, which is highly respected by Thai people," he said.

Lumpini police station chief, Colonel Suphisal Phakdeenaruenart, said he was investigating whether there were any other people involved in the attack on Thanakorn.

Quoting witnesses, police said Thanakorn climbed onto the shelter housing the statue and, using a large hammer he was carrying, pounded it until all that was left of the statue were its legs.
A number of visitors to the shrine were seen weeping after witnessing the desecration.

Saksri Klinbua, one of the arrested street sweepers, claimed he smacked Thanakorn only once in the head with a stick in self defence after Thanakorn charged him with the hammer in his hand.
He said Thanakorn then knocked his head on the ground after a loop on his trousers snared on a steel fence as he jumped over it to get away.

Police said the other man arrested, Kasemsak Karunwong, had admitted to assaulting Thanakorn.

After the attack, Thanakorn lay close to a stairway to a nearby department store with blood running from his mouth.
There was a four-inch wound caused by a blunt object to his head, a cut on his left eyebrow and many bruises on his back.
He died before being taken to the Police Hospital, across Rajdamri road.

Khanittha, the wife of Saksri, claims she saw her husband smack Thanakorn only once.

"There were other people running after him and they later assaulted him but I don't know who [they were] or how many of them [there were]," she said.

The war of spiritual forces that control Thai politics
By Chang Noi
Published on August 18, 2008

Some months ago Chang Noi was invited to a dinner featuring a speech by a leading technocrat and former finance minister. The event was attended by businessmen, senior officials and politicians. By chance Chang Noi was seated beside the brother of another leading technocrat and former finance minister. Throughout the meal and the speech he talked of various spirit mediums who could offer insight into political events and the future of the realm. He handed over business cards of some of them. He offered to be a personal escort to a meeting with one medium of exceptional power.Ads by Google
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For many people, the last two years have seen an epic battle over the fate of the nation. On one side are forces associated with the "third hand that cannot be seen"; on the other are forces associated with "London".

This is not to say that any such battle has been taking place in reality, but that is how things have appeared in the popular imagination, and not only for the "man in the street" but also for the man in the conservative suit with the Lions Club lapel badge. This tale is not about reality, but about belief, or about how to talk about things that are unmentionable.

The tale starts over two centuries ago at the founding of Bangkok. There was a sacrifice at the erection of the city pillar. Such ceremonies draw on old beliefs about the spiritual force vested in the earth. The sacrifice is required to placate these spirits so they afford their protection to the realm. Unhappily, a green snake slid into the hole along with the offerings.

This has been the cause of difficulty for the realm and ruling ้lite ever since, requiring propitiation of those gods who have the power to combat this sort of misfortune. Two gods were selected for this role. The first was the "flower Brahma". In Hindu mythology, while Vishnu was lying asleep on a serpent, a lotus flower sprouted from his navel. Brahma was incarnated in this lotus, seated in a position of deep meditation, and went on to recreate the world. In India, the idea of a "flower Brahma" seems unknown, but in the Thai adaptation, the phrase means a meditating Brahma of special power, enough power to recreate the world.

The second god was Vishnu, or Narai in the Thai tradition. During the churning of the sea of milk to create the life force for the world, he stood at the very centre, imperiously directing the whole event with his four arms. As with the "flower Brahma", this is an image connected to the power of creation.

On March 21, 2006, the statue of Brahma in the Erawan Shrine was smashed by hammer blows. Of course the statue was originally the guardian spirit of a hotel.

Such shrines draw on the same beliefs that underlie the city pillar. Probably because the shrine was at an intersection that became a pivot of the city, the statue unofficially took on the role of protecting much more than just the hotel. The attack came at a time of extreme political tension. The controversial 2006 election was two weeks away. Mobs were on the streets. According to this interpretation, the incident was not the work of a deranged vandal but a deliberate attack on one of the key spiritual forces behind the camp of the invisible hand. The attacker was immediately killed, and the incident was never properly explained in public.

Now fast-forward two years to early 2008. At the magnificent sanctuary of Phanom Rung, there is a famous lintel which depicts not only Vishnu reclining on a serpent and contemplating the recreation of the world but also the moment of Brahma's incarnation in a lotus sprouting from Vishnu's navel. Possibly this lintel was what attracted some military men who reportedly visited Phanom Rung and carried out ceremonies to improve the fortunes of the ้lite and the realm.

But some time after their visit, there was a counterattack, again at a time of gathering political tension, only a week before the court decision that dissolved Thai Rak Thai. Some people entered the Phanom Rung complex at night, moved and broke an elaborate bull lingam, defaced the mouths of eleven naga snakes, damaged two lions and broke the hands of two guardian spirits.

In this interpretation, this vandalism was an attempt to undo the earlier propitiation of Vishnu and Brahma and marshal the spiritual forces on the side of "London". This again explains why the whole event seems to have been hushed up.

The explanation continues like this. The Buri Ram faction was not an early supporter of Thaksin. In fact it was one of the last to fall into line, just before the 2005 election. And yet in 2006, its faction leader became Thaksin's chief lieutenant. That was not (according to this story) because of his political skills but his spiritual contacts. Buri Ram is a Khmer-speaking area.

In the Thai imagination, the Khmer world is a source of great spiritual power, especially associated with Angkor. Partly that power is associated with Siva, who is so prominent at Angkor. The bull lingam that featured in the Phanom Rung desecration is a representation of Siva. The snakes are his protectors. By rumour, the faction leader provided a statue of Kali, a powerful representation of Siva's wife, in one of "London's" household shrines. In the Thai view, the Khmer are also associated with the darker kinds of spiritual practice. That explains the violence at Phanom Rung.

Finally, how did Samak rise to the premiership?

According to this interpretation, Samak is a devotee of the flower Brahma. Shortly before the election he was allegedly seen attending one of the major shrines to this image for an intense ceremony.

If you accept this tale, it explains why politics have been so tense, why "London" has fallen low, why the Buri Ram faction has risen and why Samak has become prime minister.

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