Lucky Bastard

The pugnacious  Sondhi Limthongkul, 61, founder of  the anti-Thaksin People’s Alliance for Democracy – the yellow shirts – the political movement that overran Bangkok airport last year, was ambushed on Friday when two gunmen sprayed his car with bullets for five minutes.

Apart from 84 spent cartridges from three types of automatic rifles found at the scene, police also found a dud M79 grenade on Bus No 30, which was traveling in the reverse lane.

Initial crime-scene reports said the M79 failed to explode because the firing range was too close. Found at the scene were 64 cartridges fired from an AK-47, 17 from an HK33 and three from an M16.

But the lucky bastard survived the assassination attempt – despite a bullet to this head!

He is expected to make a full recovery.

And guess what the Thais are saying?

They’re wondering what amulet he was wearing at the time of the shooting.

Was it a Jatukam Ramathep?

Bloody Thais! What jokers!

Thais are big believers in the supernatural, Sondhi Limthongkul is no exception – he is known to wear amulets – including Jatukam Ramathep amulets –  to protect himself.

Amulets, which are made of various materials and come in various 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 to the wearer.

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, according to Jennifer Chen of The Wall Street Journal,   set new heights in the annals of amulet history. And at its birthplace in the town of Nakhon Si Thammarat, most buyers – including those who have traveled from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan, seem to be snapping them up.

The most popular size of the Jatukam Ramathep amulet 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.

“Fake” 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.

But who exactly is this Jatukam Ramathep? No one has a definite answer.

Some say it’s the spirit of a 17th-century king. Others believe the figure represents two princes from the 13th century. And there are 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 a couple of years 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.

According to Kasikorn Research Center, a Bangkok financial-information company, about 70% of the people buying Jatukam Ramathep amulets are speculators, who are betting that their value will skyrocket.

If Sondhi was indeed wearing Jatukam Ramathep amulets at the time of the attack, then he has just unwittingly provided a most convincing “live demo” of their efficacy.

That would certainly cause their prices to shoot up. Pardon the pun.

Will we soon see those speculators laughing all the way to the bank?


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