Updated: September 28, 2021 04:30 AM GMT
A Thai Buddhist monk walks through floodwater caused by heavy monsoon rain in Yarang, Pattani. (Photo: AFP)
Thailand’s mercurial prime minister has drawn ridicule for telling flood-afflicted locals to pray for deliverance from storms and torrential rain.
Prayut Chan-o-cha paid a visit on Sept. 26 to the northern province of Sukothai where monsoon floods have washed away houses and destroyed many locals’ livelihoods.
Prayut, a former army chief who seized power in a coup in 2014, suggested that affected people could improve the weather through prayer.
“The [monsoon] storms are hitting us right now. In 2020, there were five storms, but we’ve seen only one so far,” Prayut was quoted as saying. “So I ask all of you to pray together. Don’t let another storm come our way. Only one storm is enough.”
Numerous people have taken to social media to mock Prayut for his suggestion.
“This statement proves that this man is completely incapable of ruling a country for the benefit of the people. Prayer and fortune-tellers do not advance a country,” one commenter said, referring to the prime minister’s alleged penchant for consulting fortune-tellers before making important decisions.
In predominantly Buddhist Thailand, superstitious beliefs continue to hold sway over a large segment of the population
“Let’s pray for Prayut to quit instead,” another commenter said.
“What about a plan to prevent flooding [in the first place]? In about six months we’ll have droughts again. Every year it’s the same,” noted a third.
In predominantly Buddhist Thailand, superstitious beliefs continue to hold sway over a large segment of the population, including senior politicians such as the prime minister.
In 2017, Prayut bought 20 ceramic containers with lotus flowers growing in them and had them placed in the compound of Government House in Bangkok.
“The lotus is considered an auspicious water plant that brings luck and fortune to people who plant the flower. The plant is also a symbol of virtue,” the Bangkok Post newspaper reported at the time.
“An astrologer who asked not to be named said the makeover could bring good luck to the cabinet based on the Taksa system of Thai astrology. He said Prayut was born on a Sunday and green is an auspicious colour for him which could bring him success and honor,” the newspaper added.
The prime minister, who has been excoriated on social media for his administration’s disastrous handling of Thailand’s unfolding coronavirus crisis, has several auspicious rings and wears a different one every day in line with his various tasks at hand.
“The four rings are named Wan-Phra, Wan-Namoh, Wan-Sondej, Wan-Noppakao,” Prayut once explained. “When I wear my [army] uniform, I have to move them to my left hand because wearing them on the right hand makes it hard to salute.”
In a further bid to protect himself from bad luck, the general turned politician wears a bracelet made from the hair of an elephant’s tail.
….as we enter the last months of 2021, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.