BANGKOK (Reuters) – As he prepares to move in to Bangkok’s Government House this week, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is going to great lengths to sweep away any occult challenge.
Prayuth, 60, has left nothing to chance since leading a military coup to topple a democratically elected government on May 22. After a meticulously planned power grab, he has systematically snuffed out dissent.
That meticulousness is being carried through to his government. Like many politicians and generals before him, Prayuth believes in spiritualism and divination and on Monday members of his entourage were seen carrying Buddha statues and religious idols thought to bring luck in to Government House.
But his beliefs go beyond conventional religion, and last week, Prayuth told an audience of dousing himself from head to toe in holy water as his enemies had tried to curse him.
Army officials say his views on the spirit world and rituals to ward off evil are unlikely to influence government policy, however.
“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,” Veerachon Sukhontapatipak, deputy spokesman for the army, told Reuters.
Despite its outwardly modern appearance, everyday life in Thailand still prominently features pre-Buddhist animist beliefs.
The timing of Tuesday’s move into the prime ministerial offices has been minutely planned.
Prayuth’s cabinet will start work at 9am on Tuesday, Sept 9, say media reports – an auspicious number in a country where numbers mean everything.
The number nine – pronounced “Gaow” in Thai – is considered especially lucky. It sounds like the Thai word “Gaow-Nah”, which means to progress.
Furniture in Prayuth’s designated office has been arranged according to the principles of feng shui, a Chinese form of geomancy or belief that the universe is made up of five elements – earth, water, fire, 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,” a prime ministerial aide, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to media, told Reuters.
“The tones in the building will mostly be green, as this is the army’s colour and Prayuth, as army chief, is compatible with green,” the aide said.
In March, an anti-government group, the Network of Students and People for Thailand’s Reform, held its own ceremony at Government House to reverse black magic said to have been used against them by members of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government.
Members of the group placed three Buddha statues in the complex’s main building to “destroy black magic”, a group leader said at the time.