Thai Astrologers See Fortune in Political Soothsaying

September 16, 2008 02:54 PM
by Anne Szustek
Astrologers in Thailand are cashing in on the country’s current political crisis as people seek answers to the instability. But seeing political strategy in the stars is nothing new.

Thailand’s Political Future Well-Charted, Say Astrologers

It’s been a tough few years for Thai politics. Deposed Prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a 2006 military coup, replaced by Samak Sundaravej. Samak, in turn, was already facing three-month-long protests when he was forced to resign last week for violating Thailand’s constitution by hosting a cooking show while in public office.

The country’s ruling People’s Power Party briefly nominated Samak to replace himself, but on Monday the PPP instead nominated Somchai Wongsarawat to be the next prime minister. The national parliament is scheduled to elect a prime minister Wednesday, but the CBC writes that Somchai is far from a shoo-in, as he is the brother-in-law of Thaksin.

It may sound chaotic, but to those who support and work in Thailand’s fortunetelling industry, valued at some $74 million according to statistics supplied by Thai financial institution Kasikornbank to The Wall Street Journal, the country’s recent political woes are predetermined. The idea of fate serves as a spiritual tonic to Thais looking for guidance during uncertain times.

“Every time there’s a crisis in Thailand, it’s a glorious time for astrologers,” TV astrologer Luck Rakanithes told the Journal. Rakanithes runs a phone hotline offering a “prediction delivery system” into which callers dial their birth dates and the category of forecast they desire. The venture rakes in some $27,000 a month.

In a country whose culture is based largely on superstition, Thailand’s fortunetelling industry is beckoning new generations of university graduates with a future of financial promise. But to long-time local astrologers like Kenkgard Jongchiprah, tradition is being forfeited for hustle. He tells the Journal, “Before, it took years to build up a reputation as an astrologer. … But with television and the Internet and mobile phones, it seems all you have to do is make a lucky guess to hit the big time.”

Kenkgard is advocating an astrologer “code of conduct” for the country. Some time ago, he advised a former prime minister to lessen oversight on the industry, which was once regulated under the jurisdiction of the Thai monarchy. The current rise of the soothsaying sector is, apparently, a development Kenkgard didn’t see coming.

Historical Context: When politics has gone to the stars

Governments past and present have relied on celestial bodies to mandate mundane politics. China’s Chou dynasty, which ruled from 1115 to 221 B.C., developed the concept of “T’ien Ming,” or the “Mandate of Heaven,” to legitimize its conquest of the throne. The idea is based on the belief that “heaven” favors dynasties that seek to benefit the welfare of their subjects. In actuality, whether a ruling family maintained the favor of heaven was determined by warfare.

Astrology has played into modern politics as well. In early 1988, recently fired White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan alleged in his memoirs that First Lady Nancy Reagan often relied on a “friend” to help organize President Ronald Reagan’s schedule. On May 3, 1988, the First Lady disclosed that her “friend” was astrologer Joan Quigley, who told Reagan that a 1981 assassination attempt on her husband was in his astrological chart. Regan wrote in his book that the 1987 summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was scheduled for a time Quigley deemed auspicious.

White House advisors also said that Reagan worried about a “Presidential Death Cycle,” which suggested that any presidents elected during a year ending in zero would die while in office.

And in India, horoscopes remain all-important in daily life, and politics is no exception. According to The Irish Times, some 200 “senior” astrologers based in New Delhi are regularly consulted by federal politicians.

While India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru castigated star charts when formulating policy and organizing high-level meetings, his daughter and future Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi embraced astrology. Fellow Indian politicians believe astrologers’ advice helped Indira get re-elected in 1980; and her backers believe that her failure to heed star charts led to her being assassinated by her bodyguards some four years later.

Swami Druv, an Indian native working as an astrologer in Nepal, believes that the stars point to a restoration of the Nepal monarchy. “According to star signs, when the king’s grandson turns 13, circumstances can put him on the throne of his grandfather,” he told The Irish Times. If the Swami’s predictions hold true, Hridayendra, the grandson of overthrown Nepali King Gyanendra, is to assume the role of monarch of the Himalayan country in 2015.

Related Topics: Debunking and condemning astrology


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