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Wat, who and why? Thai PM wants to bring monk Dhammajayo to justice.

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Wat, who and why? Thai PM wants to bring monk Dhammajayo to justice. | The Thaiger

Government opposition MPs are questioning the motives of the Thai PM to take over the reigns of the Department of Special Investigations. Some say it’s retribution for failing to being to justice the fugitive monk, and spiritual leader of the Wat (Temple) Phra Dhammakaya, Luang Por Dhammajayo.

At least one advocate of the fugitive monk Dhammakaya is a government MP, and the opposition is apparently “crawling with supporters” of the controversial Wat Phra Dhammakaya. Many others consider the temple a cult and little to do with real Buddhism.

To add to that, a key suspect in the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative embezzlement scandal is the fugitive former abbot Luang Por Dhammajayo who remains immensely popular but has evaded attempts to question or arrest him since charges were brought against him. His supporters say he vows to face justice if and when when Thailand returns to civil rule.

Wat Dhammakaya is situated north of Bangkok in Pathum Thani and resembles a Disney space exhibit more than a traditional Buddhist temple.

A bit of background…

In 2015 the temple was implicated in the Klongchan Credit Union controversy when 11.37 billion baht was taken out of the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative using dodgy cheques – some of those involved a billion baht given to the Wat Phra Dhammakaya as “donations”. Temple elders claim that Luang Por Dhammajayo was unaware that the donations were obtained illegally.

The Temple tried to settle the situation by negotiating directly with the credit union. But the Department of Special Investigations (DSI) summoned Luang Por Dhammajayo to acknowledge charges of fraud and conspiring to launder money at their Bangkok offices.

The temple requested the DSI to let him acknowledge his charges at the temple due to his deep vein thrombosis, a request refused by the DSI. When Luang Por Dhammajayo failed to appear at the DSI office to acknowledge his charges authorities launched several failed raids of the temple to search for the head abbot and laid hundreds of additional charges on the temple.

Wat, who and why? Thai PM wants to bring monk Dhammajayo to justice. | News by The Thaiger

Luang Por Dhammajayo, the elusive head abbot of the controversial Wat Phra Dhammakaya

The ugly standoff between the saffron-robed monks and security authorities was the only major demonstration against the Thai junta since the coup in 2014.

The temple was in full lock down for 23 days in 2017 on orders from the junta using Article 44. The NCPO copped plenty of criticism during the time over their handling of the case. On December 20, 2017, Thai authorities emerged from the temple, empty handed. Luang Por Dhammajayo had, somehow, alluded authorities despite his alleged illnesses.

But the lawsuits are still in play.

Cut to 2019 with a new government and the PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, still smarting over the entire incident – and the loss of face – has made himself ‘overseer’ of the DSI, allegedly to supervise future actions against the wayward temple and the fugitive monk.

That is being denied, but speculation about Prayut’s motives persist.

Analysts foresee a prolonged and heavily-politicised legal saga, in which Dhammachayo could eventually resurface to be granted bail. Others suggest negotiations have been in play since the Junta’s failed mission to extract him from the temple.

Meanwhile, the temple’s current efforts to ordain 5,000 monks in the next few days are seen by some as a strictly religious affair and others as a strategic move aimed at making the authorities think twice before taking any drastic steps to avoid another messy protest and barricading of the temple by monks – a bad look in international media.

Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin is denying speculation that PM Prayut Chan-o-cha decided to take charge of the DSI by himself because he “wanted to speed up certain cases such as the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative scandal”.

Somsak says Prayut only wanted to coordinate between the police and military on national security matters and would not interfere with any on-going case.

For now, the former Dhammakaya Temple abbot, Dhammachayo, remains elusive, probably overseas.

The unorthodox temple, often associated with “certain leading politicians” on the opposite side of Prayut, according to Thai PBS, is being forced to deny involvement in the cooperative embezzlement case.

Wat, who and why? Thai PM wants to bring monk Dhammajayo to justice. | News by The Thaiger

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Bangkok

Train derails heading south from Bangkok

The Thaiger

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Train derails heading south from Bangkok | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Chaiwat Satyaem

Rail services between Bangkok and southern provinces were delayed yesterday after a passenger train jumped tracks in the Cha-am district of Phetchaburi province, about four hours south of the capital. There were no injuries reported.

The incident happened around midday yesterday.

The State Railway of Thailand reports that train 55 from Thonburi to Lang Suan station in Chumphon province became derailed at 12.04pm after departing the Huay Sai Tai station in Cha-am.

They confirmed that six carriages had jumped off the rails. They believed that the theft of steel nails used to fix the tracks to the sleepers had been stolen. Railway teams and cranes went to the scene to lift the carriages back on the tracks and assess the damage.

The Hua Hin station mater noted that there were some of the large steel nails missing from the accident scene.

Trains in both directions were affected for the rest of the afternoon but were able to resume early last night.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Bangkok

Hong Kong’s protests have been good for Bangkok’s luxury condo market

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Hong Kong’s protests have been good for Bangkok’s luxury condo market | The Thaiger

High end Hong Kong investment is turning away from the Chinese business hub and looking outside for new investment opportunities.

Thailand’s high-end luxury condo market has been one of the beneficiaries.

Keerin Chutumstid, from the Bangkok-based Magnolia Quality Development, says about 40% of the condos in a 52 storey Bangkok luxury tower development that opened last week have already been sold to buyers from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. Among those, mainland Chinese and Hong Buyers are the top foreign customers.

The new luxury tower on the Chao Phraya River has 146 units, which are managed by 5 star managers Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group. Prices start at 65 million baht (US$2.9 million) and go up to 533 million baht for the larger penthouses.

Keerim says that the protests give them an advantage for the project.

“If you look at Thailand right now, compared to other countries, we have a good level of political stability.”

Meanwhile, Thailand leading property portal FazWaz says there has been a noticeable surge of enquiries in the past few months. CEO Brennan Campbell says a lot of the new interest is coming out of Hong Kong and Mainland China….

“FazWaz has noted an influx of investment inquiries over the past two months. The city’s high-end market offers some of the best condominium properties in the world at prices still well below other mature property markets. We’re also seeing a lot more inquiries into the medium-level condo market from 6-15 million baht as well as for the ultra-luxury market over 35 million baht.”

Last week, Hong Kong’s CK Asset Holdings and Sun Hung Kai Properties decided to postpone sales of new multi-billion-dollar projects, and transactions in the secondary market are down sharply, especially for luxury homes. The slump follows two months of protracted and often violent street protests by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

It’s believed that the circumstance could add another tailwind to the luxury market in Bangkok, where the last decade’s tourism boom has put the city on the map for investors, especially mainland Chinese who have buying up big.

Bangkok real estate has also been attractive to international investors because, even after years of gains, prices are still often cheaper than in less travelled-to cities such as Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, or Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.

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Bangkok

‘One Night In Bangkok’. The song, 35 years later

Tim Newton

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‘One Night In Bangkok’. The song, 35 years later | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Doi Kuro, Bangkok 1980

When ‘One Night In Bangkok’ was released in 1984 it was an unlikely hit- the opening song from a (at the time) little-known stage pop-opera called ‘Chess’. The song made Number 1 in South Africa, West Germany, Switzerland and Australia, and Number 3 in Canada and the United States. It has remained a staple of Classic Hit radio ever since. Have a listen below…

The musical was the first outing for the two ‘Bs’ in ABBA – Benny Andersson and Bjoern Ulvaeus. Their pop grooves had made ABBA one of the most famous music groups in the world between 1973 and 1982 with a string of hits including 20 singles in the Billboard Top 100 from eight albums, etc, etc. The lyrics of the song were penned by Tim Rice (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Joseph and his amazing technicolour dreamcoat, Aladdin, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast).

In the opening song of ‘Chess’, the American chess champion Freddie Trumper gets ready for a chess game with his Russian counterpart. He ridicules Bangkok’s ‘pleasures’ and tourist attractions – the Chao Phraya River (“muddy old river”), Wat Pho (“reclining Buddha”), and the red-light distractions. The choruses are more complimentary.

At the time the sarcasm of the song didn’t go down well with the Thai Mass Communications Organisation (now the NBTC) issuing a ban on the song in 1985, saying its lyrics “cause misunderstanding about Thai society and show disrespect towards Buddhism”, a line still trotted out about inappropriate Instagrammers and their selfies in front of Thai temples.

Thirty-five years later the song still paints a picture of a contrasting ‘oriental’ city alive with lights (including red lights), colour, pungent smells, culture and history.

We’re not sure if the ban was ever lifted but I hear the song played on Thai stations from time to time. At the time, when Bangkok was less on the tourist map than now, the song was a lone reference point for westerners.

How does it stand up thirty-five years after becoming a world-wide hit? Comment on our Facebook Page.

One Night In Bangkok

Bangkok, Oriental setting
And the city don’t know that the city is getting
The creme de la creme of the chess world
In a show with everything but Yul Brynner (referring to the actor’s starring role as the King of Siam in ‘The King and I’)

Time flies, doesn’t seem a minute
Since the Tirolean spa had the chess boys in it
All change don’t you know that when you
Play at this level there’s no ordinary venue
It’s Iceland or the Philippines or Hastings or,
Or this place!

One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free
You’ll find a god in every golden cloister
And if you’re lucky then the god’s a she
I can feel an angel sliding up to me

One town’s very like another
When your head’s down over your pieces, brother
It’s a drag, it’s a bore, it’s really such a pity
To be looking at the board, not looking at the city
Whaddya mean?
Ya seen one crowded, polluted, stinking town
Tea, girls, warm, sweet
Some are set up in the Somerset Maugham suite
Get thai’d, you’re talking to a tourist
Whose every move’s among the purest
I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can’t be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me

Siam’s gonna be the witness
To the ultimate test of cerebral fitness
This grips me more than would a
Muddy old river or reclining Buddha
And thank God I’m only watching the game… controlling it

I don’t see you guys rating
The kind of mate I’m contemplating
I’d let you watch, I would invite you
But the queens we use would not excite you
So you better go back to your bars, your temples
Your massage parlours

One night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster
The bars are temples but the pearls ain’t free
You’ll find a god in every golden cloister
A little flesh, a little history
I can feel an angel sliding up to me

One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble
Not much between despair and ecstasy
One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble
Can’t be too careful with your company
I can feel the devil walking next to me

Songwriters: Tim Rice / Benny Goran Bror Andersson / Bjoern K. Ulvaeus

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