Going potty over luck at Govt House

Going potty over luck at Govt House

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha bought 20 new blue-green lotus pots with his own money in order to bring good luck to his regime. (Photo via @WassanaNanuam)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha bought 20 new blue-green lotus pots with his own money in order to bring good luck to his regime. (Photo via @WassanaNanuam)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha likes to remind us he is not a politician -- a statement that in a way reflects his perceived superiority. Basically, he wants it known he is in a different league.

But when it comes to feng shui, or Chinese geomancy, to boost luck, it appears the prime minister and the politicians he loathes have something in common.

This week, the prime minister ordered a change to the lotus containers at Government House, from grey ones to greenish-blue pots. The makeover not only drew media attention but also prompted speculation that it might be connected to feng shui principles.

The prime minister did not comment on the change, but the fact that he paid for those containers "out of his own pocket" may say something about his belief in feng shui, even though Gen Prayut would never accept this suggestion. He once strongly denied reports that he had sought help from feng shui and said the change in the pots is simply about aesthetics.

Ploenpote Atthakor is editorial pages editor, Bangkok Post.

Yet, many still believe otherwise. It should be noted this is the second time this year that the Thai Khu Fah building's feng shui has been altered. The first time was in January when the old grey containers were put in place.

Besides, it is a fact that changes to Government House feng shui have been made in every administration, presumably in the hope they will help boost the respective leader's star, and enable him or her to run the country smoothly. The late Banharn Silpa-archa who led the Chart Thai Party was said to be Thailand's political feng shui pioneer. There were reports he adorned state offices with talismans.

But the leader who brought about sweeping change to the Thai Khu Fah building with new feng shui was Thaksin Shinawatra who ran the country from 2001 to 2006. Then prime minister Thaksin ordered the walls around the state office to be changed from thick white concrete to a metal fence, with eye-catching patterns. He also removed old trees, and replaced them with plant species from his home province in the North, and relocated the spirit house to a more favourable spot in the hope that the change would help enhance his fortunes.

Even the replacement of decorative plants in the coup-installed Surayud Chulanont administration to a species with auspicious names was linked to feng shui principles.

The Abhisit Vejjajiva administration also sought to change the plants there. The makeover was believed to have something to do with Chinese geomancy as there were reports some party members sought advice from feng shui masters before the makeover. One master linked the new trees, a kind of palm with fan-shaped leaves, with the power to ward off bad luck, and the ability to strengthen his leadership. When the media asked him about this, Mr Abhisit just dodged the questions.

Then came his successor, Yingluck Shinawatra, who won the 2011 election in a landslide. Ms Yingluck, and whose rule was plagued with many troubles ranging from the Big Flood in 2011 and the controversial rice-pledging scheme, also used taxpayers' money and re-landscaped Government House in what many believe was a bid to bolster her luck. She relocated the spirit house and re-arranged ornamental canons so they would not point at the building.

Now we have Prime Minister Prayut and his new lotus containers, which cost 5,000 baht each.

So there emerges a question: Does Gen Prayut really need luck? Many may argue that the strongman does not need it. His three-year rule has been stable, with a consolidation of power. There are no major political challenges and it's likely he will stay around long enough to see the roadmap through.

In fact, I would not be surprised if someone told Gen Prayut does not believe in feng shui. He may well realise that the Chinese geomancy did little to help most of those in power before him. One was forced to step down in disgrace; at least two were ousted from power against their will. It may be just pure coincidence that the greenish-blue shade of the new lotus containers happens to be an auspicious colour for people born on a Sunday like Gen Prayut.

But this does not mean Gen Prayut will not have to depend on luck at all. Some of the government's controversial decisions, particularly the 13.5-billion-baht submarine purchase deal (36 billion for all three subs in the pipeline), which proceeded dubiously, will likely leave him in a difficult situation in the future when the transition is over and politicians are back in power. By that time, it will only be luck that Gen Prayut can count on.

Ploenpote Atthakor

Editorial page Editor

Ploenpote Atthakor is editorial pages editor, Bangkok Post.

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