Jatukam Ramathep amulets: Deadly stampede for talismans

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Jatukam Ramathep amulets: Deadly stampede for talismans

Ungelesener Beitragvon KoratCat » Di Apr 10, 2007 3:47 pm

One killed, dozens hurt as crowd stampedes in Thailand to buy popular talisman

BANGKOK, Thailand: A 50-year-old woman was killed and dozens of people injured Monday when a crowd in southern Thailand stampeded during a sale of a popular talisman supposed to bring good fortune, police said.

More than 10,000 people had camped overnight by a school compound in Nakhon Si Thammarat province, 580 kilometers (360 miles) south of Bangkok, waiting to buy the amulets, which in the past few months have gained a huge following for their alleged magical qualities.

The victim fell and was trampled on when the crowd rushed the school gates when sales of a new batch of the amulets was set to begin Monday morning, said police Lt. Suriyon Kaemthong.

Many Thais carry or wear amulets for good luck. The amulets usually show images associated with Buddhism — the religion of most Thais — though amulets are not formally part of its doctrine. A large commercial market exists for collectors, and rare amulets reputedly command prices of over 1 million baht (US$30,600; €22,800).

The Jatukam Ramathep amulets for sale Monday are named for the prince of a kingdom that existed in southern Thailand in ancient times who defeated his enemies.

The phenomenon of the Jatukam amulet started spreading nationwide when its original creator, a highly respected policeman, died aged 104 last year.

Police Maj. Gen. Khunphantarak Rajadej was believed to possess knowledge of the occult, and more than 200,000 people attended his funeral two months ago.

Police ordered a halt to distribution of the amulets after the woman died, said Suriyon.

"Jatukam Ramathep fever is very high nationwide," he said. "But not everyone wants to get one for worship ... many of them are speculators."

International Herald Tribune April 9, 2007

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Ungelesener Beitragvon KoratCat » Di Apr 10, 2007 6:50 pm

Abbot faces charge after mob crushes woman

Nakhon Si Thammarat _ An abbot will be charged with carelessness in the death of a woman trampled beneath a crowd stampeding to buy Jatukarm Ramathep amulets yesterday.


About 100 people were also injured as several thousand people who had been waiting outside rushed the gates of a school compound when they opened, vying to place orders for the limited number of amulets available.

The 51-year-old victim, Peun Kongpet, was caught up in the crowd. She fainted in the crush, collapsed and was trampled.

The jostling mob also damaged the walls and gates during the chaos at Nakhon Si Thammarat Technical College in Muang district.

Police battled to preserve order, and finally shut down the sale.

Provincial police chief Pol Maj-Gen Sutjai Yanarat said a charge would be filed against Phra Maha Maitri, abbot of Wat Phranakhon, who was in charge of making the amulets.

Bookings for the talismans were taken at three venues in downtown Nakhon Si Thammarat yesterday. Each venue was overcrowded and traffic jams blocked nearby roads.

Many people had queued up at the college since late Sunday night and loudly expressed dissatisfaction when they learned the sale was cancelled.

It was the second attempt to allow people to place orders for the new collection of Jatukarm Ramathep amulets, called Ngern Lai Ma (Money Pouring-in). The first round, on March 16, also ended in chaos.

The temple wants to use the amulet sales revenue for the construction of a school for monks at Wat Phramahathat, where relics of the Lord Buddha are kept.

Jatukarm Ramathep is the guardian god of the relics. The talisman is believed to bring wearers good luck and this has driven a public craze for it.

The popular talismans recently led to two suspected burglars being shot dead while breaking into houses allegedly to steal them.

Phra Maha Maitri blamed yesterday's chaos on groups of teenagers hired to place orders for the amulets, which could later be sold at inflated prices.

''They were hot-tempered and did not follow the rules,'' the monk said.

Religious Affairs Department chief Preecha Kantiya said the private sector and temples would be asked to put a halt on amulet making while ways were found to prevent the chaos from recurring.

Bangkok Post April 10, 2007

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Ungelesener Beitragvon KoratCat » Mi Apr 18, 2007 6:34 pm

Amulet fever brings B1bn windfall

Nakhon Si Thammarat _ Jatukarm Ramathep amulet fever has injected more than one billion baht into Nakhon Si Thammarat's economy over the past 10 months, says a local banker. Hordes of Thai and foreign tourists flocked to the southern province over the Songkran holiday to buy Jatukarm Ramathep amulets.

Bangkok Post April 18, 2007

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Ungelesener Beitragvon KoratCat » Fr Apr 27, 2007 7:41 pm

Thailand: Amulets Money

BANGKOK, Thailand. Buddhists have become obsessed with a magic amulet which resembles a rap star's bling-sized medallion, despite warnings that the circular icon is a cosmic crutch, corrupting religion and society. When a fresh batch of Jatukam Ramathep amulets went on sale in April, buyers stampeded, trampling a woman to death. Thieves have infiltrated shops, homes and temples to steal the lucrative charm.

Jatukam amulet sales may have reached 500 million U.S. dollars during the past two years, according to economists, though estimates vary because many transactions are in cash, without receipts. "Jatukam is the most popular deity in Thailand today," reported The Nation newspaper, but experts disagree over who the amulet represents. Some insist Jatukam Ramathep are the names of two princely brothers who lived in this region hundreds of years ago.

Others believe Jatukam Ramathep is one person, perhaps King Chandrabhanu, who ruled much of Southeast Asia during the ancient Srivijaya kingdom. Others insist the person on the amulet is a potential Buddha, or perhaps a Hindu deity.

In the center of the cookie-sized amulet, a man in traditional regalia sits in a meditative pose, left hand on his knee, and right hand held shoulder-high, palm outward. Variations can include one or two dragons behind him, or a multi-headed serpent, or a surrounding ring of Hindu deities. Medallions come in red, white, black, silver or gold. The reverse side may show a man standing, or instead display a sun or moon emitting rays, or 12 cosmological signs.

Frenzy over the amulets, and concern over the purity of Thailand's Buddhism, coincide with an ongoing public debate about how Buddhists should behave, and how much financial and political power the elderly, conservative, male, saffron-robed clergy should wield. "Many high-ranking [Buddhist] monks in Bangkok are astrologers, masters of the occult arts, or entrepreneurs in the amulet industry, making Thailand one of the world's largest amulet producers," wrote Mettanando Bhikku, a Thai Buddhist monk who criticizes contradictions within the religion.

The amulet market is controlled by the Buddhists' Ecclesiastical Council in Thailand, and allows temples to gain millions of dollars, tax-free, he said."Essentially, this is a worship of spirits," lamented The Bangkok Post's assistant editor Sanitsuda Ekachai. "The Jatukam Ramathep phenomenon does not only reflect public insecurity from political uncertainties and terrorism threats, it also shows that we are basically animists.

"If we really need a national religion, animism should be the one. At least it can help us stop fooling ourselves that we are still Buddhists, and see who we really are," she wrote. Thailand's Supreme Patriarch, who heads this country's Buddhist clergy, announced on Sunday (April 22) he will stop providing materials from his temple to make Jatukam amulets, but declined to specify why. His temple earlier provided sacred ash from burnt incense, colored powder from bricks used in temple construction, and other Buddhist-related material to make thousands of Jatukam amulets. The Supreme Patriarch's announcement came after thieves reportedly broke into a nearby Buddhist temple on Sunday (April 22) and stole 30 Jatukam amulets, valued at about 430 U.S. dollars.

Earlier, robbers in the southern region broke through an amulet stall's ceiling and escaped with Jatukam amulets priced at 5,700 U.S. dollars. Most Jatukam amulets have been made with the blessing of Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawiharn, the Supreme Patriarch's temple in southern Thailand's Nakhon Si Thammarat city. When the amulets' price recently soared, dealers throughout Thailand rushed to set up stalls next to the temple, hoping to get the newest versions.

Crowds crushed a woman to death, and injured about 100 others, on April 9 when thousands of people ran toward a school in Nakhon Si Thammarat to buy the amulets. In the same town, during March, an amulet-collecting woman used her husband's 9-mm pistol to kill a man allegedly breaking into her home along with three other criminals, who fled into the night.

Another amulet collector shot dead a suspected thief in the same southern town on March 26, police said. More than 90 percent of this nation's 65 million population believe in Buddhism, a religion which emphasizes freedom from superstition, gods, and other illusions. Many Thai Buddhists, however, collect and wear various amulets which also depict famous monks, kings and other people, living or dead.

"I am a Buddhist and I like the Jatukam amulets because I want more luck," said businessman Somsak Sacjew in an interview on Wednesday (April 25). Mr. Somsak, 35, was buying six of the amulets, for about 5.70 U.S. dollars each, in a Bangkok shopping mall. "I am going to give them to my son and daughter, 20 years from now. I think I have more than 50 Jatukam amulets now. I don't resell them," Mr. Somsak said.

"Most people request the Jatukam amulets because it is good for business, good for your family, and good for your life," said Hua Pongsak, an amulet shopkeeper offering a selection priced at 20 U.S. dollars to 72 U.S. dollars each. Kanita Shi, 35, said she recently bought a Jatukam amulet for 20 U.S. dollars from Mr. Hua's shop, because she wants good luck -- even though she believes Buddha protects her and already gives her lots of luck.

"It is like if you already have two million dollars. It is enough, but won't you then want four million dollars?" Ms. Kanita said in an interview at the shop. "I observed my life before I bought this amulet, and compared what happened after I bought it, and I saw my business became better and my family life became better," she said. Sculptors, who create a unique mold to cast the amulet in a clay-like material, can make hundreds of U.S. dollars by designing new versions.

Printers are churning out color brochures, vinyl-covered posters, and other displays to advertise the amulets. Web sites, including Uamulet.com, offer the amulets online. Clothing vendors print Jatukam's portrait on T-shirts, while metalworkers produce the amulet as a thin bronze coin. Other profiteers include producers of raw materials to make the amulets, organizers of blessing rituals, and distributors.

Jatukam also appears on "incantation cloth" -- which is usually a rectangle of inexpensive cotton, illustrated with a wood-block printed image. Temples, raking in cash by manufacturing the amulets, pump the money into the local economy by hiring construction crews to build Buddhist shrines, stupas and schools. The first Jatukam amulet was reportedly made in Nakhon Si Thammarat in 1987, to raise funds for the city's shrine. Originally selling for about one or two U.S. dollars, those early medallions now list for 2,000 to 28,000 U.S. dollars.

More than 100 versions of the Jatukam amulet now appear in shops throughout Thailand, and competition among sellers is fierce. Some versions include tempting names, such as the expensive "Arch-Millionaire" and "Money Pouring In" series.

Global Politician April 27, 2007

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Ungelesener Beitragvon KoratCat » So Apr 29, 2007 6:26 pm

Patriarch ends role in amulets

His Holiness the Supreme Patriarch will no longer provide materials from his temple, such as ash from incense or powder from bricks, to make the amulets that have sparked a crime wave in Nakhon Si Thammarat, it was announced yesterday.

Jatukham Rammathep amulets, which are believed to have magical powers and cost up to Bt600,000 apiece, can only be made with the permission of the southern province's Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawiharn.

The Supreme Patriarch has provided materials to produce amulets to all temples and individuals that request them but will now stop doing so, the office of his secretary announced yesterday. It did not say why.

However, a source said the announcement was made after revered monk Luang Ta Bua of Wat Pa Ban Tad blessed the Supreme Patriarch to mark his 18th anniversary as head of the country's Buddhists, at Chulalongkorn Hospital yesterday.

Interest in the amulets began in the middle of last year and hit fever pitch this year. Earlier this month a woman was crushed to death when thousands of people rushed into a school in Nakhon Si Thammarat to buy coupons they could exchange for the amulets.

The amulets have become the main target of thieves in Nakhon Si Thammarat, said Colonel Yanaphat Norasing, superintendent of the police in the province's Muang district.

Amulet robberies occur daily, local residents say. Yesterday, 30 amulets worth Bt15,000 were stolen from the residence of Phra Palad Nikom Kamalo, abbot of Wat Nam Song in Muang district.

Recently, a thief broke through the ceiling of an amulet stall in the province and made off with more than Bt200,000 worth of Jatukham Ramathep amulets.

Monks from the province welcomed the Supreme Patriarch's announcement. They said they were concerned the materials he provided were being used to boost the prices of the amulets.

As demand for the amulets sparked surging prices, many Buddhists became concerned that Buddhism was being turned into a commodity. The Supreme Patriarch's announcement was welcomed as it would protect him from being sullied by those seeking to trade on his position for financial gain, said a monk involved in the incantation rites for Jatukham Rammathep amulets.

"Some amulet sellers used photos of the Supreme Patriarch giving them materials [for amulets] to boost sales," he said.

Incantation rites for the amulets can only be performed at Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawiharn. Its abbot has said incantations for more than 30 editions of the amulets have been performed at the temple so far this year. Amulet makers from across the country have set up shop at the temple.

Although welcome, the Supreme patriarch's announcement would not lessen demand for Jatukham Rammathep amulets, a monk said.

Amulet makers have been competing to come up with new and strange materials, he said.

On Saturday night, thousands of people gathered at Wat Muang Talord and Wat Ta Chang because they heard rumours that the temples were being used to store the popular Ngern Lai Ma edition of the amulets.

The Nation April 29, 2007

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Ungelesener Beitragvon KoratCat » Di Mai 15, 2007 10:36 am

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0705/S00281.htm is the link to an article "A Corrupting A Cosmic Crutch Emerges In Thailand" about the amulett with pictures.

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Ungelesener Beitragvon KoratCat » So Mai 20, 2007 9:37 am

Jatukarm amulets trickle South

It's not about greed, creator's disciple says


By Sujintana Hemtasilpa

Like other temples across the country, Wat Khao Kaew in Muang district of this southern province has been benefiting from the trickle-down effect of the popularity of Jatukarm Ramathep talismans. The abbot of this small temple, Phrakhrupalat Suparp Supajaro (formerly Mom Rajawong Suparp Abhakara), said he decided to start selling the popular amulets to raise money for construction of a multi-purpose building at the temple.

Sales have been going well as the abbot said the temple was not overcharging for the amulets despite them being a very sought-after edition.

But people are drawn to the temple for other reasons than just buying amulets. The temple's abbot was a long-time disciple of Jatukarm creator, Pol Maj-Gen Khun Phantharak Rajadej, widely known as ''Khun Phan''. And the abbot still has some keepsakes of the late police officer.

The three items are a ring made of the alloys of gold, silver and copper; a conch shell with sorcery symbols written on it by Khun Phan himself; and a scepter decorated with the image of Nakhon Si Thammarat city pillar. People also ask the monk to tell them of the life and work of Khun Phan, who died of old age in July last year at the age of 108.

''Khun Phan told me the idea of making Jatukarm came one night when he dreamed of an ancient ruler of the Srivijaya kingdom. In the dream, the ruler said Nakhon Si Thammarat was cursed and the town, which was plagued with crime, needed Jatukarm and things would be fine,'' the monk said.

''Khun Phan said he initially had no idea what Jatukarm looked like and the ruler told him to copy the images of two deities that were built near the stairs that led to the revered Phra That in the Maha That temple.''

However, the abbot said the rising popularity of Jatukarm talismans had led to greedy traders resorting to dishonest means to capitalise on the amulets and inflating prices, which was creating a negative image for the talismans.

''The talismans and Jatukarm Ramathep deities have nothing to do with human greed and wicked behaviour. It's the wickedness of some related to Jatukarm that has tainted the good name of the talismans and the good intention of their creators,'' the abbot said.

Phrakhrupalat Suparp said the belief in Jatukarm Ramathep deities is non-Buddhist. However, Buddhism allows its disciples to believe in any other gods and other religious principles without prejudice.

''Some plants yield flowers with different colours, that's the same with Buddhist followers. They can have a belief in other deities,'' the abbot said.

Bangkok Post May 20, 2007

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Ungelesener Beitragvon KoratCat » So Mai 20, 2007 9:41 am

PM: Amulet prices can be capped

By Nucharee Rakrun

Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont yesterday questioned the rationale behind the heavy commercialisation of Jatukarm Ramathep amulets as calls to cap their prices become louder. ''If you ask me if I want to buy this kind of happiness, the answer is I don't,'' Gen Surayud said in Chiang Mai during the Government House Hotline programme on radio and Channel 11 television.

It is possible to control the prices of the amulets, some of which have gone up 1,000% in only a few weeks, the prime minister said, responding to a reporter's question.

Massive speculation has driven up prices of the amulets, which originate in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat.

The history of the amulet is unclear, though Jatukarm and Ramathep were said to be rulers of the ancient Srivijaya kingdom. They are revered by some as protectors of the province which was once home to a major trading port.

Gen Surayud said the trade is profit-oriented. ''There is a catch somewhere. There is always commercial interest behind everything,'' he added.

The prime minister said people should be aware how many times the amulets have been resold and consider what they will use them for.

In Nakhon Si Thammarat, the provincial tourism office has predicted a ''golden year'' for the local economy, giving credit to the Jatukarm Ramathep phenomenon.

Last year, the tourism industry injected more than six billion baht into the province and this year the figure is set to rise sharply.

Suthi Seelamai, director of the Nakhon Si Thammarat tourism, sports and leisure centre, said the boom would benefit the hospitality and service sectors the most.

He said the economic outlook for the province would likely remain bright for several years to come.

Bangkok Post May 20, 2007

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Ungelesener Beitragvon KoratCat » Sa Mai 26, 2007 9:06 am

AMULET SENDS MIXED BLESSING

The Jatukam talisman craze and related businesses have injected a stimulant into Nakhon Si Thammarat's economic growth, but at what cost, asks SUPARA JANCHITFAH

On the surface, it seems that the booming trade in Jatukam talismans in Nakhon Si Thammarat (NST) is a completely positive development for the province. When one looks deeper, however, it becomes apparent that there is a downside to being ground zero for the phenomenon that has taken Thailand by storm

Nakhon Si Thammarat is known for its long and rich tradition in Buddhism. The Jatukam phenomenon might be an incident which comes and goes. — Photos by SUPARA JANCHITFAH

The abrupt success of Jatukam-related businesses has translated into jobs and prosperity for many people. Locals commonly observe that the amphetamine trade in the province is not as widespread as before. This is in line with statistics from the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB) which reveal that in October of last year there were 121 drug cases in NST province. Six months later, in March, the number of cases had drastically declined to only four (see graphic).

No clear explanation has been given behind the waning of activity, but it seems plausible that it could be due to a switch from amphetamine trafficking to the legal marketing of Jatukam.

On the other hand, reports on crimes such as theft, often involving Jatukam, are on the increase in the province, as a quick glance at local newspapers attests. This might be related to the high demand for some Jatukam models.

While Jatukam may have brought fortune to some, the majority of people in Nakhon Si Thammarat are still lacking in basic necessities. — NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

Many locals are also worried that some people in the Jatukam trade do their business in dishonest ways. "I met one of my students who purchased imitation Jatukam that cost him around 100 baht for three images. He said he sells them for 800 baht each in Bangkok," said a teacher at a secondary school.

"I asked him, don't you think this is a sinful act? He told me that he was just satisfying the needs of those buyers who want to get special models at a low price," he added.

Moreover, there are a number of reports that some vendors have run away with money from buyers who paid in advance for yet-to-be released models, using forged advance reservation books. The fake agencies do not show up on the appointed days to give buyers the talismans.

Distinguishing Jatukams

The Wat Wang Tawan Tok area of NST, long an area for buying and selling amulets, has turned into a paradise for those who want to buy sought-after models of Jatukam priced from 70 to 100 baht each. Priced this low, it is doubtful they have passed through the sacred ritual, which, along with the materials used to produce them, distinguishes the "real from the fake" images. Reportedly, only a skilled eye can tell the difference.

When Perspective visited Wat Wang Tawan Tok last month there was a huge crowd of people, even though it wasn't on the weekend. Most locals know about the place where people can buy Jatukam that have not passed through the sacred ritual. Many people were buying the Jatukam for souvenirs or gifts, others purchased large amounts but declined to say why.

Vendors were also close-mouthed about how and where they obtained the Jatukam.

If only people paid attention to the materials which are purportedly incorporated into certain models of Jatukam, they would likely question how they could be obtained.

Brochures and leaflets promoting various Jatukam models list the components. For example, one model claims to use bits of earth surrounding the burial site of the placental material and umbilical cord of Luang Por Tuod (Wat Chang Hai, Pattani), who is said to have passed away 425 years ago. When Perspective tried to contact persons in charge of the production of this amulet at Wat Mahayong in NST to ask about the claim, a monk deferred the question to some people at a downtown centre. When these people were tracked down, they also failed to provide any information on how they were able to find the place where the placenta was buried.

On reflection, it would seem that many of the materials might be quite hard to secure, such as soils from places mentioned in the chronicle of the Lord Buddha's journeys in India and Nepal. Some Jatukam models are even claimed to contain leaves of Sara trees in Kushinagar, the place where the Lord Buddha attained paranirvana.

The agencies responsible for obtaining the materials claim they are able to get them by sending people to India and Nepal, but they do not want to be named in newspapers.

The sacred rituals are usually performed at various temples. Some models advertise that the ritual is performed on multiple occasions _ three, five, seven, up to nine times _ on particular Jatukam. Most models perform the ritual, at least once, at Pra Mahathat Voramahaviharn temple, the main temple in Nakhon Si Thammarat, which is fully booked until the end of this year.

This woman was once a janitor, now she earns much more as a vendor of Jatukam. Many others in the province are self-employed as vendors or in painting the amulets. — Photos by SUPARA JANCHITFAH

The rituals have certainly interrupted the normal schedule of those who wish to study and practise Dharma. One nun and her followers had to move their classes from the main Vihara of the temple to a kitchen. "There are a lot of noises since the temple became the venue of sacred rituals for Jatukam," said the nun.

The rituals for some models are held on mountaintops which are considered sacred, or the "umbilical cord of the sea", reportedly at the mouth of the Nakhon Si Thammarat sea located in Pak Phanang district.

There are a number of monks, shamans and Brahmans whose presence is highly prized at these rituals. Some producers say they have to put a large amount of money into an envelope for each of these holy men.

WHAT IF MARKET SHRINKS?

The Jatukam-related business provides income not only for the buyers and sellers, but also for the workers and artisans who make the talismans and paint them with gold or silver. The financial boon is distributed to other provinces such as Bangkok and Nakhon Pathom, as there are not enough factories in NST to mould them. Work is even contracted out as far as a ceramics factory in France.

There are many success stories, such as the former janitor-turned-talisman vendor whose income has skyrocketed. Young people who used to spend their time riding their motorcycle in a dangerous manner now occupy themselves with packing and painting the talismans, selling T-shirts with the images of popular models, working at the factories, etc. Many venture into the forest to find materials for making the talismans, such as eaglewood, wild jasmine and so on. (As a side note, there is a report that some people were arrested for transporting large amounts of the fragrant Teptaro wood from the forest.)

Though the financial benefits are clear for some, others seem to get locked into a cycle similar to that of the chronic gambler, devoting their small incomes to speculative purchases of Jatukam which may or may not pay off.

Jatukam and related products are everywhere inside and outside many major temples in Nakhon Si Thammarat, providing income for many vendors.

"I pity some low income people in my area. Some of them do not have enough rice to eat, but yet they keep buying Jatukam. They want to get rich, that's why they keep purchasing," said Tambon Administration Organisation (TAO) member Jaroon Mankong of Pak Phang Tawan-ook subdistrict.

He is afraid that the market will shrink in the future. "If they cannot sell whatever they have stocked, what will happen?" he asked.

Locals often have many sets of Jatukam on display in their homes, but they do not show them all. They hide them away, out of fear of being robbed. Some have their Jatukam stored in lockers at local banks.

Other locals, like Chareon Maharat of Chiang Yai district, approve of wearing Jatukam but are not interested in speculating on them. "I think it's good to have one, but not too many," he said.

He suggested that people should not buy the Jatukam that have already been released into the market.

"It is better for you to wait to order new models. They are cheaper than those already released," he said, adding that a good Jatukam talisman could be judged from the materials used, the sacred ritual performed and who performed it. He named some trusted persons and temples.

O-sod Suwansavek, who works at Nakhon Si Thammarat hospital, agreed that people should not collect too many Jatukam. He said it is important to consider the objectives in making the talisman.

"You know, it is quite hard for some temples to get their work done if they have to wait for the Katin (merit-making ceremony) and other donations. Producing Jatukam helps some temples achieve their goals in construction and other projects faster," said O-sod. He is aware that some temples don't get big sums of money after producing Jatukam.

A possible disadvantage to the whole Jatukam craze is that it seems to be taking the focus off of important issues. Government employees such as teachers and officials at provincial hall devote a great deal of their attention to Jatukam. Many schools, universities, as well as the Provincial Court, are producing Jatukam as part of their fund raising campaigns.

While this may be considered rather unorthodox by some, these state-associated Jatukam producers try to keep things in perspective. Said Walailak University Rector, Assoc Prof Dr Thai Tipsuwankul:"We don't commercialise Buddhism, we produce just enough for those who donate money to our campaigns to educate medical students and supply equipment for medical research. The university's committee suggested that we produce Jatukam as a token of appreciation to donors."

Bangkok Post May 26, 2007

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Ungelesener Beitragvon KoratCat » So Mai 27, 2007 9:43 am

Amulet craze 'contrary to Buddhism'

Revered monk Phra Maha Wudhijaya Vajiramedhi said on Saturday that the Jatukarm talisman craze reflects a thirst for an easy windfall and deviates from the Lord Buddha's teachings. He minced no words, blaming the media and monks for fuelling the amulet fever.

The monk, who currently teaches at Mahachulalongkornrajavidyala University, said: "The three refuges a Buddhist should seek are the Lord Buddha, his teachings and his ministers [monks].

"The rightful way to make a living is to use our brain and two hands, not the talisman," said the monk, better known under his pen name of W. Vajiramedhi.

The popular amulets are said to be wealth-spinners, and are rolled out with extreme and oddball labels such as Kote Ruay Maha Sarn (Enormously Super Rich) and Ruay Mai Mee Het Phon (Rich Without Reasons).

Speaking on the sidelines of the Fourth International Buddhist Conference, the monk and prolific dharma writer said Thais have not run short of models to inspire them.

They have His Majesty the King, and more than 30,000 temples and 300,000 monks across the country, he said.

But most talisman owners are short of money and lack knowledge of the dharma concept of self-reliance, he said.

No one dared to be a whistleblower, to tell society that it is heading in the wrong direction. This was the task W. Vajiramedhi said he expected from the media and the monks, which ironically acted otherwise.

Education for monks should be revamped, he said, adding that monks who took part in producing the amulets were uneducated. They could not distinguish between Brahman and Buddhist beliefs.

As a Visakha Bucha ambassador, W. Vajiramedhi also encouraged the public to refrain from vice and make merit on Visakha Bucha Day, which falls on Thursday.

The conference, held in Buddha Monthon in Nakhon Pathom yesterday, runs until Tuesday, and has drawn 5,000 Buddhist participants from 61 countries.

The forum has agreed to actively promote Buddhism, particularly in China, India, Europe, Africa and the United States.

Bangkok Post May 27, 2007

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JATUKARM ... WHAT GOES UP...

Ungelesener Beitragvon KoratCat » Mi Aug 15, 2007 4:21 pm

JATUKARM ... WHAT GOES UP...

Buddha amulets are slowly recovering from a slump with talisman prices dropping as market mechanisms shift in favour of buyers

Story By SURASAK TUMCHAROEN


Once expensive and in high demand, some versions of Jatukarm talismans are now being sold for only five baht each in the Tha Prachan area, where there is a popular amulet market.
Small-time dealers in traditional Buddha amulets are slowly pulling out of a serious slump in their trade brought on by the craze for Jatukarm talismans.

According to news reports, a decline in the popularity of Jatukarm talismans has arrived a few months sooner than predicted by some gurus in the amulet-trading business.

Last week, a mass-circulation Thai-language newspaper ran a front-page report that some Jatukarm models were being dumped onto the market at only 5 baht apiece, but still there were very few buyers.

This did not come as a big surprise, though. In less than two years since the Jatukarm craze gripped the nation, more than 1,000 models of the talisman have been created, with each production numbering from 10,000 to 100,000 pieces - or even more for some models. Roughly, at least 50 million pieces have been produced to date, resulting in a huge glut on the market.

The smell of fat profit has lured people from virtually every sector of society to join the rush to produce Jatukarm talismans to meet the demand of worshippers. The cost per piece, based on raw materials alone, is only a few satang if it is made of clay. A major portion of the production cost is usually for marketing, including advertising in various media outlets.

Collectors select Buddha amulets at Pantip department store's amulet market on Ngarm Wongwan road. The popularity of Buddha amulets has never declined despite the Jatukarm craze of recent years.

Generally, there are two main reasons behind the decision by Buddhists to buy amulets - they have faith in the sacredness of those amulets, or they value them as works of art.

In the case of Jatukarm, however, it's obvious that price speculation was what drove many people to join the mad rush for the talismans. The IPO (initial public offering) price of each model normally ranges from 200-1,000 baht a piece, depending on the raw materials used in the production. But at the height of the Jatukarm craze, the prices of popular models could earn profits for speculators several times more than what they actually paid in IPO prices. The prices also varied according to the age and authenticity of the talismans and also the reputation of their producers.

But now the high demand for Jatukarm is over, many models of the talisman have become worthless.

Today, many dealers at major amulet markets including those in the Ngarm Wongwan, Thon Buri and Tha Phrachan areas, believe the popularity of Jatukarm talismans is waning and the traditional amulets are making a comeback.

Charnchai Ladya, a small-time amulet dealer in Thon Buri, said he was struggling to offload his stock of Jatukarm talismans at bargain prices.

The dealer said he could not help jumping on the Jatukarm bandwagon. It turned out to be a mistake that cost him several thousands of baht as he ended up with more talismans than he could sell.

Another dealer, Thirachai Kiatprasithichai, said he had bought just a few Jatukarm talismans for sale to his regular customers who promised to continue buying old-fashioned, yet more expensive, amulets from him. He added he believed that trading in traditional amulets would prove a more promising business in the long term.

Mr Thirachai, who has been in the amulet trade for some 20 years, predicted that the Jatukarm fad would not last beyond next year. Jatukarm prices were going down as the market mechanism was gradually shifting in favour of buyers, he said.

According to Phayap Khamphan, head of the Amulet Dealers Association of Thailand, the Jatukarm craze has had no serious effect on the trade in traditional amulets. Many dealers still prefer to wait until they get good prices, instead of trying to close a deal in a hurry. And no loss occurs as long as the amulets which they may have purchased at high prices remain untraded for at lower prices.

Mr Phayap also said the fact is that the modern Jatukarm and traditional talismans do share the same markets. Though Jatukarm buyers may have outnumbered those who would only buy traditional amulets, most of them are still the same people who show up at the same amulet markets almost daily. Many who wear one or more Jatukarm talismans around their necks also wear other talismans at the same time.

Considered to be very rare are the highly priced century-old Benjaphakhee amulets, to which the 20-year-old Jatukarm talismans cannot be compared either in terms of prices or reputation.

Moreover, the real difference between Jatukarm and traditional talismans lies in the fact that the traditional ones are made in the image of the Lord Buddha or one of the many revered monks in Thailand, while the Jatukarm bears the image of a deity. This means the Jatukarm could not be put in the same class as the traditional talismans.

The prices of highly-coveted traditional amulets range from a few million baht to as high as 20 million baht each, and the market is always controlled by the sellers, never the buyers.

One of the Benjaphakhee amulets is called Somdej Wat Rakhang, created by Somdej Phutthacharn To of Wat Rakhang in Thon Buri about 150 years ago. The selling price of a genuine Somdej amulet currently starts from 10 million baht.

The other Benjaphakhee amulets are Soom Kor from Kamphaeng Phet, Nang Phaya from Phitsanulok, Phong Suphan from Suphan Buri and Phra Rod from Lamphun.

Bild

Bangkok Post Aug. 15, 2007

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Charm Offensive

Ungelesener Beitragvon KoratCat » Fr Aug 17, 2007 5:29 pm

Charm Offensive

Inside Thailand's Amulet Craze

By JENNIFER CHEN
August 17, 2007

NAKHON SI THAMMARAT, Thailand -- Not so long ago, Nakhon Si Thammarat was a sleepy town with no obvious tourist attractions -- or tourists. Its economy revolved around shrimp farming and fishing.

Now this provincial capital in southern Thailand is crawling with thousands of visitors each week. The big draw: amulets, some as small as three centimeters wide, called Jatukam Ramathep.

Thais are big believers in the supernatural. Amulets, which come in various materials and sizes and are usually worn around the neck, are basically lucky charms thought to have magical powers that protect from physical and spiritual harm as well as bring good fortune. Thailand is predominantly a Buddhist country and the amulets usually depict famous monks or the Buddha.

Thailand has seen its share of amulet crazes over the years. But the Jatukam Ramathep medallion -- which depicts a mythical figure that resembles a Hindu god with multiple arms and heads -- has set new heights in the annals of amulet history. And at its birthplace in the town of Nakhon Si Thammarat, most buyers seem to be snapping them up more for their supposed power to deliver instant riches than for their promise of good health.

"Every province has its amulets, so I've asked myself, 'Why this one, and why has it become so popular now?'" asks Patrick Jory, a history professor from Australia who teaches at Walailak University in Nakhon Si Thammarat province. The answer, he thinks, lies in Thailand's weak economy and the political instability gripping the country, particularly a Muslim insurgency in the area around Nakhon Si Thammarat, a Buddhist stronghold that so far hasn't seen conflict. There is "this sense that maybe we're losing the south," Mr. Jory says, so many Thais are turning to the supernatural world for help. Popular demand for Jatukam Ramathep amulets also might be a way of expressing solidarity with the beleaguered Buddhists in the southernmost provinces, he adds.

Nithit Somsimme, who has traveled to Nakhon Si Thammarat to shop for an amulet, is a believer. Mr. Nithit owns a real-estate valuation business in northeast Thailand. After his father-in-law gave him a Jatukam Ramathep amulet a few years ago, his business boomed -- an outcome he attributes "100%" to the amulet. Mr. Nithit now plans to expand his business, and he wants to buy another amulet before going ahead. He's willing to pay up to 100,000 baht ($3,200) -- in cash -- for the right one. "It has to be a special one," he says before strolling off to peruse the town's wares, which include medallions with auspicious-sounding names such as "Enormously Super Rich" and "Get Rich Quickly."

Gold and Ivory

To the untrained eye, Jatukam Ramathep amulets might not look like much: the most popular size is five centimeters in diameter but they can be bigger. Most are decorated with a many-armed Hindu-esque god on one side and on the other, a demon-god eating the moon or a mandala, a geometric pattern that represents the universe.

Some are fashioned out of ivory and gilded in gold, silver or bronze. Typically, though, they're made of more humble materials, such as dried jasmine, tree bark, sacred soil, medicinal herbs and holy water, all of which are mixed together and pressed into a mold, often by monks. The amulets are then glazed or touched up with gold and silver paint. They are often marketed in series, and prices start at less than $2 (about double the price of other kinds of amulets), and can go up to several thousand dollars. And as prices have climbed, speculators and investors have jumped in.

Fake plastic versions abound, especially in Bangkok's night markets. But unless a Jatukam Ramathep amulet is registered and consecrated at Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan, a 13th century temple in Nakhon Si Thammarat, it isn't regarded as being official, and is believed to have fewer magical powers.

As to who exactly Jatukam Ramathep is, no one knows for sure, says Narong Bunsuaikhwan, a sociologist from Walailak University. Some people say it's the spirit of a 17th-century king. Others believe the figure represents two princes from the 13th century. And there is a coterie of academics and local town officials who are bent on proving that the figure is a genuine Hindu god.

But there is one thing most people agree on: It was the death about a year ago of the man who created the amulet, Phantarak Rajadej, the town's former police chief, that sparked the current craze. An imposing figure with a handlebar moustache, he was said to have practiced black magic and could disappear into thin air at will. According to one story, the police chief created the amulet 20 years ago as a way to raise money for a city shrine.

Mamat Pengsut, a senior government official from a nearby district, swears by a Jatukam Ramathep amulet for its protective powers. Mr. Mamat wears one around his neck on a heavy chain. A few weeks ago, he contends, the amulet saved him -- and eight other people who each were wearing one as well -- from harm in a three-car pileup. Another person, the only one in the accident who wasn't wearing a Jatukam Ramathep amulet, sustained a shoulder injury.

Stories like that keep people pouring into Nakhon Si Thammarat to buy the medallions.

The extent of the craze is far-reaching -- stoked by marketing campaigns. According to Neilsen Media Research in Thailand, amulet purveyors spent $5 million between January and March this year alone on TV, radio and newspaper advertising for Jatukam Ramathep amulets. It's even swept up tourists from Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong who are beating a path to Nakhon Si Thammarat.

In Bangkok, for instance -- 780 kilometers north of Nakhon si Thammarat -- Chinese-Thai businessmen in suits as well as noodle vendors proudly wear the medallions, sometimes more than one. Military figures and politicians are also believers. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont presided over several unofficial Jatukam Ramathep amulet blessing ceremonies in June at a beach getaway destination near Bangkok favored by Thai high society.

About 70% of the people buying Jatukam Ramathep amulets are speculators who are betting that their value will skyrocket, says Paka-on Tipayathanabaja, a senior researcher for Kasikorn Research Center, a Bangkok financial-information company, who has tracked the amulet market for the past five years.

Consider the gain an investor could have made on the first edition of a Jatukam Ramathep amulet. When it was issued in 1987, the amulet cost about $1.30, says Mr. Narong, the sociologist from Walailak University who has a collection of rare Jatukam Ramathep pieces he says is worth more than $160,000. Today, Mr. Narong says that same medallion has been appraised by amulet experts at nearly $13,000. "Look at me," says Mr. Narong, chuckling. "Even Ph.D.s have lucky charms."

Online Amulets

Thailand's amulet trade is well established. Every major Thai town has shops that specialize in selling medallions. Amulets also are sold on eBay. There are magazines -- almost 40 in all, available at mainstream bookstores nationwide -- and Web sites devoted to the lucky charms. The opinions of amulet appraisers are quoted in publications, on Web sites and in Thai-language mass media. Kasikorn Research Center estimates that the total amulet market will be worth about $1.5 billion this year, more than double the total in 2005, driven largely by the demand for Jatukam Ramathep amulets. By comparison, according to the latest government figures available, in 2005 Thais spent $1.8 billion on books and newspapers.

"I feel a little weird about it," says Watcharapong Radomsittipat, an amulet expert who has been in the business for 15 years. "Like people are too crazy about it. It's almost overshadowing Buddhism."

Not everyone has succumbed to Jatukam Ramathep fever though. To Buddhist purists, the big emphasis the amulet puts on wealth is anathema. They argue it is unseemly for monks to participate in such an overtly commercial venture.

At Wat Phra Mahathat Woramahawihan, for instance, the temple where all true Jatukam Ramathep amulets are blessed, sponsors give the temple $1,600 to $3,200 for each incantation ceremony. The temple holds the ceremonies, during which many amulets are blessed at once, four or five times a day. Officials at the temple say they have no idea how much money such services bring in.

As much as the Jatukam Ramathep amulet frenzy reflects "a degree of hopelessness in Thai society," says Mettanando Bhikku, an Oxford- and Harvard-educated physician-turned-monk, "it also reflects the decadence of monks' morality."

Moral issues aside, Nakhon Si Thammarat's economy is booming. While local government authorities won't say how much the town has earned, the amulet's effect is impossible to miss: Along the road from the airport, billboards advertise the latest series of Jatukam Ramathep amulets. In town, nearly every business along the main drag has banners emblazoned with images of medallions as well as glass display cases holding a dozen or so for sale.

Besides tourists, the craze is attracting attention from another quarter: Thailand's tax authorities recently sent a team to town to study imposing a special tax on shops that sell the amulets.

Wall Street Journal August 17, 2007


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