I was interested to read the news of well known fortune teller Mor Krit's sentencing to six months in prison for making a very, very wrong prediction. It's a story far bigger in the Thai press than in the English one.
Mor Krit is a Thai guy not a decade out of puberty who made a terrible prediction about Lydia. She's a local country singer who's friends with the Shinawatra dynasty. Rumours were abuzz they were having an affair - Thaksin and Lydia, I mean - Mor Krit wasn't having an affair with anybody, which may explain his erratic behaviour.
In Thai showbiz, it's mandatory to be doing something a little unacceptable with somebody, otherwise the gossip rags have nothing to report about you; heaven forbid they should be forced to write about your talent.
So this Mor Krit goes on television and predicts Lydia is pregnant with you-know-who's child. One small problem - she isn't. Not long after, at a Mor Krit shopping center appearance, Lydia's mother storms onto the stage, stops the show and demands an apology. In one of those seat-squirming scenes that end up with a million hits on YouTube, Mor Krit has to perform the dreaded grab tao, or prostrating himself before the offended party in order to apologise - to her feet.
Lydia sued for 50 million baht. Mor Krit counter-sued for 100 million baht for the distress of being sued. Before Lydia could sue for the distress of the distress of being sued, the court ruled Mor Krit guilty, and that's how we leave him; broke, battle-scarred and behind bars.
I first met Mor Krit two years ago. He was a contestant on a game show for which I was executive producer. "He's an amazing up-and-coming fortune teller who's soooooo accurate!" my adrenalised staff swooned at me. The young man was certainly affable enough, but he bombed out after a few questions. I mean, come on ... you're a fortune teller. You know the answers already!
His court ruling surely must send shivers through the Thai fortune telling industry. God help us. If every fortune teller who ever made a wrong prediction's gonna end up in the Bangkok Hilton, then it's going to be more crowded than Sala Daeng station at 6pm, not to mention smellier than a gang of red shirts rampaging through a hospital.
That's because Thai fortune tellers are uncannily inaccurate. I myself have visited a dozen of them in my 20 years in Thailand, and with the exception of one, I've walked away wondering if it would have been less painful just to have set fire to the 200 baht fee for each consultation.
"I can tell you now you've got a big surprise heading in your direction in seven months," one guy told me once. I was killing time at the Landmark Hotel, formerly famous for its psychics on the second floor.
I chose this one Indian Thai man who had a nose so hooked I could have used it to unlock my car door had I lost my key. He read my palm, then his face broke into a smile. "Your wife is pregnant. You're going to have a child in seven months. No ... wait a minute ... not a child. Twins!"
Great! I've always wanted twins, two boys I could dress exactly the same, give names that rhymed, then wonder why they disown me 18 years down the track. There was a small problem though; I wasn't married.
Then there was the lady psychic in Chiang Mai. "There's a spirit of a sad woman in your house, and she's hundreds of years old. She's holding a flower in her hands. She wants you to replace the light bulbs in your house, and if you do, you will come into a big fortune," she whispered to me, shawls dancing in the wind generated by a rattling fan next to her. Imagine if I'd been high on drugs or something when she told me that; I'd have run out of her tent screaming.
Or the old guy at Sanam Luang. "You're a Capricorn, aren't you?" he began, smiling knowingly.
"Virgo," I said, smiling graciously.
"Yes, Virgo, I meant Virgo," he replied, smiling desperately. "There are four women - one of them a Capricorn - who are all fighting over you. Yes, that's what I meant. A beautiful Capricorn woman, is following you. And she'll be successful! I think you know who I'm talking about."
I didn't have the heart to tell him the truth that no, I was completely in the dark - and we'd exhausted our ways to smile by that stage.
But my favourite happened in Ratchaburi many years ago, when a Thai friend took his father (and me) along to what they call a rang song. This is a channeller like those crackpots in Southern California who close their eyes and summon up Ramthese, an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh who somehow can now speak with a booming Southern Californian twang after lying dead all those thousands of years.
The Thai versions are equally as ludicrous. The one I saw was a woman whom you paid to go sit and listen to. She channeled some man by the name of "Chan-tha", the spirit of a Ratchaburi farmer from hundreds of years before, and you could ask the guy questions about your future.
I immediately had issues. I'm asking a Ratchaburi farmer about the wisdom and knowledge of the universe? I don't ask living farmers the meaning of life; why would I quiz a dead one? At the end of each channeling session a little cement Buddha amulet suddenly materialised in the lap of the woman (I suspect there was a trap door between her legs), as if this spirit somehow also had the gift of plaster-casting in the afterlife.
After a while I became bored sitting cross-legged so I put up my hand. The woman's eyes were closed and the man sitting to her left (manipulating her trap door, no doubt), tried to ignore me. As I started to speak I noticed the crone's eyes opening just a little to confirm her worst fears - a farang in the room upsetting the spiritual apple cart.
"Yes, I'd like to ask Chan-tha a question please," I said.
"No! no!" said the man. He turned to my friend and his father and spoke in Thai. "Chan-tha cannot speak English."
Oh, right. Chan-tha knows the truths of the universe, and can even make plaster casts of the Lord Buddha out of thin air from his home in the afterlife ... but he can't speak English?
If only Mor Krit had predicted 9/11, or the hamburger crisis of September 2008. Let's not even set our sights so high - which Thai fortune teller was able to predict this week's heatwave?
Unfortunately it's just not very sexy to announce such mundane things on national TV; far better to scream that Lydia is pregnant, or Andrew Biggs is being pursued by four women including a Capricornian.
And so we must farewell Mor Krit, as he makes his way over to Bang Kwang. But do not despair. He'll be out in six months, which is a helluva long time in the world of gossip rags. Just watch as the Thai public eagerly await his "comeback", a word which, unsurprisingly, rhymes with "quack".
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