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Baby amulets: Kuman Thong

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Among the superstitutious, Kuman Thong, or baby amulets, remain as popular as ever, and, although illegal, actual baby body parts are sometimes used to make them.

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Celebrities Jakkaphan Kansompot and Jakkapong Kansompot sit in their prayer room surrounded by statues and talismans. (Photos by Thanarak Khunton)

Excerpts from a story that appeared in Sunday's Spectrum magazine in the Bangkok Post.

Do you find this charm offensive?

By Jeerawat Na Thalang

Celebrities Jakkaphan Kansompot and Jakkapong Kansompot are proud of their massive collection of “Kuman Thong”, or baby amulets. In the prayer room at their home in Bangkok, several hundred Kuman Thong in different shapes, colours and sizes are displayed on shelves.

On the other side of the room, a plate containing bottles of water and puddings are placed in front of another collection of larger Kuman Thong, which are arranged in a small shrine.

“They are like our family, brothers and children,” Jakkaphan, or Jack, told Spectrum.

“Call me superstitious, but this is part of the traditional belief of Thais,” Jakkapong added.
Jakkaphan and Jakkapong, 41, once known as Jack and Jill in their days as famous singing twins, look every bit the modern professionals. Behind the slicked-back hair and designer jeans, they also believe the Kuman Thong have provided them with protection and support.

It started in 1997 when their business was hard hit by the economic crisis. Then teenage boys, the pair did not know what to turn to. Their mother gave them a Kuman Thong which once belonged to their grandfather.

“We were looking for something to hold on to.

We prayed for the Kuman Thong’s support to help us succeed. And it worked,” Jakkapong said.
Today, they have 1,689 Kuman Thong in their collection.

THE LUCKY COUNTRY

A small part of the collection gathered by Jakkaphan and Jakkapong.

Jakkaphan and Jakkapong are among many Thais who believe that possessing lucky charms will help bring them good fortune, security and protection.

For instance, a “Khun Phaen” amulet is believed to make the bearer more charming. People wear “Jaturakham Ramtap” because they believe it protects them from danger. Many shops have a “Nang Kwak”, a small woman statue beckoning visitors, because they believe it will increase the number of customers.

The popularity of Kuman Thong can be traced to the Ayutthaya period, and myths and superstitions have followed them throughout the centuries. The most controversial is the belief they were made from the body parts of dead babies.

Kuman Thong were famously mentioned in The Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen folklore, set in the late 1500s. In the story, Khun Phaen made an amulet out of his child’s foetus by performing a black magic ritual. The unborn child then became a ghost called Kuman Thong, or “golden boy”. The folklore said Khun Phaen used the Kuman Thong for his protection on the battlefield.

These days, it is believed the Kuman Thong will bring good fortune.

CONTROVERSIAL MATERIALS

A photo of two preserved foetuses, which were used in the past to make Kuman Thong.

Kuman Thong are controversial because of the materials used in the amulets’ production. Two years ago, Thai police arrested a Briton of Taiwanese descent for illegally procuring six foetuses. It is believed that the foetuses, found stuffed inside a suitcase, were meant to produce Kuman Thong.

Pol Col Wiwat Kamchamnan, who oversaw the case, told Spectrum that some people smuggle body parts for their collection and to produce talismans or amulets, especially Kuman Thong. They often steal body parts from hospitals. In other cases, undertakers sold anonymous foetuses or body parts to the black market.

Despite the threat of penalties of up to one-year imprisonment and a 2,000-baht fine, people continue to steal body parts for the black market. “They believe that a talisman with body parts will bring them fortune,” Pol Col Wiwat said.

Asked where thieves can find body parts of the infants, Pol Col Wiwat said, “There are news incidents about abandoned infants and foetuses from unready mothers almost every day. Some of these may find their way to the procurer.

“I want to tell the hospitals and the morgues to take good care of the bodies in their care to prevent such incidents from happening again.”

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Vocabulary:

abandoned : left alone by someone who is supposed to look after you - ถูกปล่อยทิ้งไว้

amulet : a small object that some people wear around their neck as a protection against evil, bad luck, disease etc - เครื่องราง

arrange (verb): to put something in a particular order; to make something neat or attractive - จัด

battlefield : a place where a battle is being fought or has been fought - สนามรบ

bearer (noun): a person who has something with them or is the official owner of something, such as a document - ผู้ถือ

beckon : to signal to someone to come towards you - ส่งสัญญาณเรียกโดยการใช้มือหรือศีรษะ

black magic : a type of magic which is believed to use the power of the Devil in order to do evil - เวทมนตร์ชั่วร้าย

black market (noun): an illegal form of trade in which foreign money, or goods that are difficult to obtain, are bought and sold - ตลาดมืด

celebrity : someone who is famous, especially in the entertainment business - คนมีชื่อเสียง

century : a period of one hundred years - ศตวรรษ

charm : a small object worn on a chain or bracelet, that is believed to bring good luck - เครื่องรางของขลัง, เครื่องราง

collection (noun): a group of objects, often of the same sort, that have been collected (gathered together over period of time) - สิ่งของที่รวบรวมไว้, การสะสม การเก็บรวบรวม

controversial : causing disagreement or disapproval - ซึ่งก่อให้เกิดการโต้แย้ง

crisis : a situation that has reached and extremely difficult or dangerous point - ช่วงวิกฤต

despite (prep): used to show that something happened or is true although something else might have happened to prevent it; used to show that somebody did not intend to do the thing mentioned - ถึงอย่างไรก็ตาม, ทั้ง ๆ ที่

display : to put something in a particular place so that people can see it easily - โชว์, แสดง

excerpt : a part of a longer story, speech, song, text, etc. - บทคัดย่อ

fine : an amount of money that you have to pay because you have broken the law - ค่าปรับ

foetus : a young human being or animal before birth and after the organs have started to develop - ทารกในครรภ์, ตัวอ่อนในครรภ์

folklore : the traditions and stories of a country or community - คติชาวบ้าน,ความเชื่อหรือขนบธรรมเนียมประเพณีของชาวบ้าน

for instance : for example - ตัวอย่างเช่น

fortunes : luck, well being - โชค

ghost (noun): the spirit of a dead person that someone sees or hears - ผี

imprisonment : the punishment of being put in prison - การจำคุก

incident : something that happens, usually something bad - เหตุการณ์

infant : a baby or a very young child - ทารก, เด็กอ่อน

massive : very large - จำนวนมาก

material : a substance that things can be made from - วัตถุ

mention : the act of referring to someone or something in speech or writing - การกล่าวถึง, การเอ่ยถึง, การพูดถึง

morgue : a building in which dead bodies are kept before they are buried or cremated (= burned) - ที่เก็บศพ, ห้องเก็บศพ

myth (noun): an ancient story or set of stories, especially explaining the early history of a group of people or about natural events and facts - นิทานปรัมปรา, ตำนาน

offensive : causing someone to become upset or angry; rude - ซึ่งทำให้ไม่พอใจ,น่ารังเกียจ

pair : two people who are doing something together - คู่

penalty : a punishment, or the usual punishment, for doing something that is against a law - โทษ

popularity : a situation in which someone or something is liked by many people - ความเป็นที่นิยม, ความเป็นที่ชื่นชอบ

possess : to have or own something - ครอบครอง, ถือครอง

preserved : kept something as it is, especially in order to prevent it from decaying or being damaged or destroyed - ซึ่งปกป้องไว้

procurer (noun): Someone whose job is to get/find things for other people, often illegally - ผู้จัดหา

production : the process of making goods or materials, especially large quantities - การผลิต

professional : a person who does a job that needs special training and a high level of education - ผู้เชี่ยวชาญในวิชาชีพ,ผู้มีวิชาชีพ

protection : the act of protecting somebody/something; the state of being protected - การอารักขา, การปกป้อง

proud : feeling pleased and satisfied about something that you own or have done, or are connected with - ภูมิใจ

pudding (noun): a sweet dish eaten at the end of a meal; a cold dessert like cream flavoured with fruit, chocolate, etc - ขนมพุดดิ้ง

ritual : a set of fixed actions and sometimes words performed regularly, especially as part of a ceremony - พิธีกรรม

security : a feeling of confidence and safety, or a situation in which you can feel confident and safe - ความมั่นคง, เสถียรภาพ

shelf (plural: shelves) : a flat board, made of wood, metal, glass, etc, fixed to the wall or forming part of a cupboard/closet, bookcase, etc, for things to be placed on - หิ้ง, ชั้น

shrine : a special place in which you remember and praise someone who has died, especially someone famous; a place for worship which is holy because of a connection with a holy person or object - หลุมศพ หรือ สถานที่บูชา

slick : smooth and shiny or wet and slippery - ลื่นเป็นมัน, เป็นเงา, เป็นมัน, เกลี้ยงเป็นมัน,

statue : a human or animal image that is made of stone, wood, metal, etc. - รูปปั้น

stuffed : packed; very full of something - แน่น ซึ่งใส่ไว้จนเต็ม

suitcase (noun): a case with flat sides and a handle, used for carrying clothes, etc. when you are travelling - กระเป๋าเดินทาง

superstition : the belief that particular events happen in a way that cannot be explained by reason or science; the belief that particular events bring good or bad luck - ความเชื่อในทางไสยศาสตร์, ความเชื่อในผีสางเทวดา

superstitious : believing in the power of magic or luck - เชื่อโชคลาง

surrounded : having something,people, etc. completely around all sides - ถูกล้อมรอบ

talisman : an object that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck - เครื่องราง, สิ่งนำโชค

thieves : people who dishonestly take something that belongs to someone else and keep it - ขโมย

threat : a danger - อันตราย

traditional (adj): of a custom, a way of life or a way of doing things that has not changed for a long time - เป็นประเพณี, ตามธรรมเนียม, ตามที่ปฏิบัติกันมา

twins : two children born at the same time to the same mother - แฝด, ฝาแฝด

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