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Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival. Put it in your diary – VIDEO

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival. Put it in your diary – VIDEO | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Caitlin Ashworth
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WARNING: The content below contains photos and videos of self-mutilation that some people may find disturbing.

Phuket’s annual vegetarian festival is on this month. Officials say they are asking participants to strictly observe social distancing. Good luck with that! For those who don’t know, despite its name, the festival isn’t exactly known for the vegetarian food. It’s better known, even infamous, for body mutilation, noisy parades and Chinese heritage.

During street processions for the weeklong event, also known as the Nine Gods Festival, so called “mah songs” are known to practice self-mutilation and are said to enter a trance-like state, channeling spirits through their body. “Mah” means horse in Thai, and many suggest the mah song acts like a horse for the spirit to ride.

Many mah songs pierce their checks, ears and lips, some with large swords and thick needles. Some slice their tongues continuously for hours, blood dripping down on the street. Others appear to be in a trace walk barefoot as firecrackers explode on the ground.

Mah Songs march down Phuket’s streets for hours with a team of devotees to help tend to their wounds, adjust the piercings, wipe away drool and blood, and keep them hydrated. It’s understood that devotees wear white as a symbol of purity. It’s also reported that they abstain from eating meat, drinking alcohol and having sex during the weeklong festival.

It seems gruesome, but it’s actually very spiritual. Business owners and locals line the street, some setting up altars. Mah songs stop at each one and do a quick ritual. Some mah songs carry a black flag, waving it over onlookers who bow their heads and place their hands in the “wai” position. Some spend time blessing the elderly and handing out bracelets to children. During a procession last year, a woman held up a bracelet as said “the ‘Spirit’ gave this to my mother.”

This year, the festival will have to be a little different to abide by coronavirus prevention measures. The Bangkok Post says it’s the first festival since the outbreak. The head festival organiser Prasert Fukthongphol says “we will seriously enforce social distancing measures and require all participants to wear face masks.”

The grotesque piercings, noisy parades and visits to the shrine, are good news for Phuket’s tourism and bad news if you’re a vegetable. Many adherents to the Chinese-heritage local festival will go without sex, alcohol and meat for the week of so of the festival. The week of events and ceremonies hopes to scare away the bad gods again but, especially this year, attract some extra visitors to the festival.

Another Vegetarian Festival in Chon Buri has also been given the green light. The event is planned for October 16 to the 26. This year’s main event for the festival will be in Naklua at Sawangboriboon Thammasathan Foundation at the Sein Sua Chinese Temple, but many other events will be around the city throughout the week.

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival. Put it in your diary - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival. Put it in your diary - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival. Put it in your diary - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival. Put it in your diary - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

Phuket's annual vegetarian festival. Put it in your diary - VIDEO | News by The Thaiger

SOURCES: Bangkok Post | Pattaya News

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    September 25, 2020 at 3:49 pm

    It is some sort of perversion made legitimate by a fake religion.

    IMHO

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Caitlin Ashworth is a writer from the United States who has lived in Thailand since 2018. She graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and media studies in 2016. She was a reporter for the Daily Hampshire Gazette In Massachusetts. She also interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia and Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida.

Phuket

Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens

Caitlin Ashworth

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Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Marina Krasnopolska

WARNING! Content below contains photos of self-mutilation that some may find disturbing.

The flags on Go Teng poles were lowered on Monday, ending Phuket’s annual Vegetarian Festival and symbolising that the spirits have returned the heavens. The flags are raised at the start of the festivities each year at participating shrines, calling on the spirits to descend from the heavens.

This year, 2 men were electrocuted while taking down the festival flags. A steel pole with the flag touched a power pole, electrocuting and burning the workers as they were trying to lower the flags. They were taken to the hospital.

During the festival’s street processions and ceremonies so-called “mah songs” channel the descended spirits. They enter a trance-like state and many practice self-mutilation to channel the spirits. “Mah” means horse in Thai, and some say the mah song acts as a horse for the spirit to ride.

Some mah song pierce their cheeks and other parts of their body with steel spikes and sometimes swords or other bizarre choices (we’ve seen petrol pumps, javelins, samurai swords and kitchen utensils). During the street procession, they walk for hours with the self-inflicted piercings, seemingly posessed by ‘spirits’ and muttering all sort of strange chants, verging on mild cases of Tourette syndrome. A team of devotees for each mah song wipe away blood and keep the wounds clean. Some mah songs even slice their tongue for the street procession. Blood drips on their chest and the ground. Waiting bystanders line the streets hoping for the blessing of a passing mah song. Some mah songs carry a black flag.

The event is an annual spiritual ‘cleansing’ for those in watching the processions. Onlookers lining the street bow their heads and place their hands in the “wai” position as the mah song waves flags and banners over their heads. Businesses along the procession route often set up an altar outside their shop and mah songs stop at each one to do a short ritual.

The Phuket government gave the festival organisers the “okay” to hold this years event with hopes that it would increase domestic tourism and generate much-needed revenue after the Thai government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic crippled Phuket’s tourist economy. Before this year’s festival, Phuket City Mayor Somjai Suwansupana asked that the mah songs “limit the level of torturing.” He also called for a limit on the number of people at ceremonies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

His calls were largely ignored.

The spirits will again return in 2021 to Phuket again cleanse the island’s large Thai-Chinese community.

Photos of the 2020 Vegetarian Festival by Marina Krasnopolska.

Phuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The ThaigerPhuket's annual Vegetarian Festival lowers flags, spirits return to the heavens | News by The Thaiger

SOURCE: Phuket News

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Events

Thai PM orders investigation into Samut Prakan gas pipeline explosion, 3 dead

The Thaiger

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Thai PM orders investigation into Samut Prakan gas pipeline explosion, 3 dead | The Thaiger

Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha is ordering an investigation into yesterday’s explosion of a gas pipeline in Samut Prakan, just south east of central Bangkok. At least 3 people were killed. Among the dead, 2 elderly women were killed, plus at least 28 confirmed injuries when the PTT gas pipeline exploded in the coastal Bang Bo district.

The prime minister has also expressed his condolences to the families of the victims stating that authorities would “get to the bottom of the incident”. The explosion was near the Soi Preng Wisuthathibdee School. Children were evacuated from the area immediately. The gas pipeline exploded during a gas transfer from Laem Chabang district to an industrial estate in Samut Prakan province.

Samut Prakan-based emergency responders arrived quickly on the scene with firetrucks and extinguishing foam.

Thai PM orders investigation into Samut Prakan gas pipeline explosion, 3 dead | News by The ThaigerThai PM orders investigation into Samut Prakan gas pipeline explosion, 3 dead | News by The Thaiger

PTT, the Thai petrochemical company announced yesterday around 2.30 pm that the fire was under control and the situation contained.

“It is initially believed that the explosion was caused by the leakage and diffusion of NGV liquefied natural gas in the pipeline.”

Officials from the PTT Emergency Control Centre have been assisting the injured and said they will “resolve the situation as quickly as possible”.

Authorities speculate that built up pressure in the pipelines were responsible for the blast. Investigators are now on sire to inspect the scene. There hasn’t been any announcement about the full extent of the damage caused by the explosion. Video below from INN News.

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Events

St Mark’s International School ‘breaks ground’ with their new Bangkok campus

The Thaiger

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St Mark’s International School ‘breaks ground’ with their new Bangkok campus | The Thaiger

St Mark’s International School celebrated a groundbreaking event last Saturday by literally ‘breaking ground,’ by conducting a ceremonial dig on their new proposed campus in Bangkok. The successful Christian International School has been operating out of their current Rama 9 Campus for the last 20 years and is now planning to expand exponentially when the new campus in Sri Nakarin Road to the east of Bangkok is completed in 2022.

David Jackson, the British Head of Primary said that this new development celebrates a positive milestone in our development.

“As a successful International school specialising in maths and science supported by our successful tri-lingual languages program the teaching team are looking forward to using our new state of the art facilities for the benefit of our students.”

The event was attended by a number of dignitaries including Pastor Martin Chapel from the Calvary Baptist Church, Bangkok alongside Mr Owen Grant a representative from the Australian School Curriculum and Standards Authority plus former and current parents and students who were very complimentary of the school.

The school’s director, John Ruangmenthanon explained how the school will be augmenting their existing IGCSE and A-level system by introducing the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank for senior students which will enable St Mark’s International School pupils direct access to universities both in Australia and worldwide.

For more details please visit St Mark’s International School website HERE.

St Mark's International School 'breaks ground' with their new Bangkok campus | News by The Thaiger

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