Uniquely Thailand

Only in Thailand would discussion about setting up a regulatory body to oversee spiritual mediums and advisors make front page news. I especially like the Baht 30 (US$0.75) “all-you-can-eat” business model for spiritual counselling.


Bangkok Post, 4 December 2004

By Onnucha Hutasingh

The mediums, be they godly messengers or con artists, will be ushered out of the twilight zone if the Society of Mediums, a professional regulatory body for the supernatural, comes into existence.

The idea was floated at a discussion on “Unshelling Thai Society: Faith and Superstition.”

The forum also proposed a “30-baht universal medium counselling scheme” whereby a customer pays one price for unrestricted access to consult all mediums.

Somchai Charoen-amnuaysuk, director of the Bureau of Welfare Promotion and Protection of Children, said mediums had been allowed to dupe people for too long. It was time to draw the line and the idea of an ethics-governing society sprang to mind, he said.

He admitted mediums could help people overcome trauma or find a solution to problems. However, they could also influence the minds of believers, and not always in the right way. Apart from that, they were also charging a fee for a service, and as such should be regulated to ensure customers were given a fair deal.

Mediums listen to personal problems, give advice and charge a fee. They were technically conducting a practice and must be brought under a regulatory council, said Mr Somchai. “There’s no denying that people in despair turn to mediums for help. The belief is ingrained and is here to stay,” he said.

Nukul Muangchiangwan, a veteran medium, backed the proposal for a professional society to keep out the con men.

She said many mediums were out to scam people, offering anything from phony rituals to simple charms to “repel bad omens”.

Ms Nukul said good mediums “kept a purified spirit” and charged no more than 100 baht a session.

A medium watchdog coalition was formed in Ratchaburi and Nonthaburi to monitor the industry and publish its own newspaper to expose cheats.

The forum was held by the Mental Health Department to rationalise myths surrounding the supernatural. The forum was prompted by a Ratchaburi mother’s brutal slaying of her daughter as a human sacrifice to the Hindu god Indra.

Srisak Vallipodom, an anthropologist, said such irrational beliefs attested to cultural backwardness. People were unable to keep up with the rapid pace of scientific development and their belief in the supernatural had spun out of control, he said.

Somchai Sianglai, deputy secretary-general of the National Culture Commission, said an individual’s rights to hold beliefs was inviolable as long as fraud was not involved.

1 Comment so far

  1. Raffy Tima (unregistered) on May 12th, 2005 @ 6:23 pm

    Hi everyone,
    I’m a journalist from the Philippines. i’m currently here in Bangkok doing research on the history of disasters in Thailand.
    I have been trying to get hold of Dr. Srisak Vallipodom, an anthropologist but i haven’t had the luck for the past few days.
    I wanted to ask him about legends or stories of disaster in Thailand and people i’ve talked say he is the man i should contact.
    i would greatly appreciate if someone can provide me his contact info.
    Many thanks.
    i can be reached at this email addresses: rdtimajr@gmanetwork.com or raffyt@journalist.com

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