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Phuket Culture: Getting ready for the rains retreat

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Culture: Getting ready for the rains retreat | The Thaiger

PHUKET: This weekend’s full moon heralds the official start of the rainy season in Thailand, marked by back-to-back Buddhist Holidays, Asaha Bucha and Khao Pansa.

For non-Buddhists, the long “dry” weekend to welcome the “wet” season is a good opportunity to relax, if nothing else.

For most devout Buddhists, however, there is much deeper meaning and purpose to the holy weekend.

Here is an explanation of the holiday, its roots and customs.

Asaha Bucha Day
Marked by the full moon of the Thai lunar calendar’s eighth month, Asaha Bucha was designated to celebrate and perpetuate the first sermon that the two-month-enlightened Buddha gave to his first five followers over 2,500 years ago.

The words “Asaha Bucha” are derived from the ancient Pali language and literally mean “worshiping fourth month”.

The fourth month of the ancient Indian lunar calendar is equivalent to the eight month of the Thai lunar calendar.

It is for this reason that in Thai, Asaha Bucha is also referred to as wun pen deuan bpad – the full-moon-day of the eighth month.

It is one of three lunar-based Buddhist holidays in Thailand.

The other two are Makha Bucha Day – typically a full moon in February, sometimes in March – which commemorates the Buddha’s sermon to 1,250 followers; and Visakha Bucha Day – typically a full moon in May, sometimes April – which celebrates Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death, all in one.

Celebrations and ceremonies in Buddhist temples are generally the same for all three days.

After the offerings, blessings and sermons during the day, there is a climactic moonlight candle procession during which participants, carrying a lit candle, three joss sticks and a lotus flower, encircle the temple’s main Buddha hall three times.

The number three in Buddhism refers to the “triple gem” and symbolically represents the Buddha, his teachings (Dharma) and the clergy (Sangha). This is the reason for circling a temple or crematory three times and also prostrating three times in veneration of the Buddha or a senior monk.

The ultimate truth
The intricacies of custom and tradition all too often cloud underlying meanings and purposes.

Contrary to popular belief, to understand the essence of Buddhism and benefit from its philosophy, practitioners do not have to be versed in ancient mantras and spells, nor do they need to seek the protection of a magical tattoo or amulet. In fact, many of the practices we see today are contradictory, if not irrelevant, to what Buddha actually taught.

The real point of Asaha Bucha day is to honor Buddha’s first and fundamental sermon, which explains that the Dharma Wheel – an analogy for our life cycle – comprises the “spokes” of birth, illness, death and rebirth.

The wheel turns relentlessly; life is a constant cycle of suffering caused by our desires, dependencies and attachments.

In order to break free from the cycle of pain and suffering that is life – not to be reborn again into the same cycle – and thus obtain the ultimate truth of enlightenment, detachment and renunciation of the unessential and harmful things in life must be practiced.

At the same time, it is important to avoid extremes and instead seek a middle path, willfully and consciously living by the basic five precepts: to abstain from killing, stealing, lying, drinking and sexual misconduct.

That said, Buddha is not a god to be worshiped, but rather a teacher to be honored.

Khao Pansa
The day after Asaha Bucha – this Friday, August 3 – is Khao Pansa, literally the “rains retreat”. This is the customary time for laymen to ordain as monks.

For this three-month period, monks traditionally retreat to temples because the rains make it difficult for them to meditate in the forest or ask for alms on a regular basis.

To ensure the monks are able to sustain themselves, laypeople make larger-than-usual offerings during Khao Pansa.

Aside from food, large candles have been the customary form of offering, a practice dating to times before the invention of electricity. Today, large candles are still offered but this is largely a tradition now as most temples have a continuous supply of electricity.

During Khao Pansa, monks stay in the temples, disciplining themselves by following hundreds of precepts which dictate that they abstain from everything, including growing eyebrows to even singing. This is in contrast to the five basic precepts that laypeople attempt to follow as outlined in the Buddha’s principle sermon.

Khao Pansa also sees an increase in social awareness through media campaigns on Thai TV, newspapers and radio. The most common of these is echoed in the nationwide alcohol abstinence slogan: “Khao Pansa Ngote Lao“.

— Steven Layne

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Property

Guaranteed rental returns – Are they real?

The Thaiger

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Guaranteed rental returns – Are they real? | The Thaiger

If you’re looking to invest in overseas property, search the market and it’s not unusual to find condos for sale with guaranteed rental returns of 40%, and some even higher. Yes, it DOES seems too good to be true, but the offers are out there and the packages often come with free legal fees and other such benefits. Clearly, before diving in, you need to seek some expert and professional advice.

So, what is the debate about? And what questions should you ask prior to investing?

Guaranteed rental returns are obviously enticing for investors and purchasers alike, with standard net returns usually being advertised below the 10% mark.

In the opinion of many, this is not a cheap marketing trick. Yes, it does have ‘marketing power’ and it might just be the additional financial package that helps developers and agents clinch the deal. But for the investors, they genuinely are guaranteed a minimum return on their investment. Surely that’s positive. It eases the concerns of investors and keeps the market buoyant. And why wouldn’t buyers prefer to go with the property that guarantees this return, over the property that does not?

Other experts are not so sure. While acknowledging that a rental guarantee clearly offers agents and developers an advantage in marketing and selling, there are voices within the industry that urge caution. There’s a suspicion that developments that come with a guarantee may be overpriced and that the developers may have factored the cost of the guarantee into the actual price of the property that is being offered.

Those that hold this negative opinion about guarantees suggest that a better strategy for any investor might be to really understand the market in which the property is being offered, aim to get the lowest price possible, do the deal and then organise the letting independently.

Other cautious voices wonder if investors aren’t being tantalised with a vision of unrealistic long-term returns. The question that is asked is what happens when the guaranteed period ends? It’s not unknown for the guaranteed period to expire, and for the investor to suddenly realise that the true rental value of the property is much lower than they believed. Rental incomes suddenly drop, and they suddenly realise that they have overpaid into the wrong investment.

But still, many deny that developers overprice properties when offering guarantees. And no matter what, it’s clear that a rental guarantee is important for certain investors who need the security that it offers. And genuinely, it appears that there are some good guarantees out there on the market. So what to do?

The trick is to apply common sense and due diligence to the situation and examine the legal, commercial and financial strength of the guarantee and the market in which it is being offered. Here are some questions worth considering:

Legally, how is the guarantee structured?

Is it underwritten with a contract in which legal recourse is an option, should you not receive the income that is guaranteed? This is clearly important.

Commercially, is the guaranteed rental figure in-line with the rental market in which the property is situated? Basically, are the developers offering you more rental income than is actually achievable in the current market? If they are offering you more, then once the guaranteed period expires, you’ll probably see your returns on investment drop.

Financially, how does the guarantee work?

Is the guaranteed return dependent upon the commercial success of the project?

Some guarantees are based on projected annual revenues and are subject to these revenues being achieved. In other words, if the expected revenues aren’t achieved, the full guaranteed amounts might not be paid to the purchaser.

In addition to this, some guarantees may also come with the proviso that the amount being ‘guaranteed’ is ‘subject to the competency of’ the management of the complex. This may seem vague, but it’s possible that if the expected revenues aren’t achieved, then the blame for this failure is going to be put solely on the management company.

The vagueness of such a ‘competency’ proviso might also be used to cover all manner of issues. For example, is it possible that forecasted rental revenues might fail to materialise, not because of the bad management of a complex, but because the original forecasts were set too high? It might be easy to blame all manner of poor results on the incompetence of how an apartment complex is managed and to do this with no liability.

With this in mind, once again, it’s very important to look at the rental market in which the property is located, and then ask: are the projected annual revenues realistic in the current market? And of course, you will have to do some research on the developers.

Do the developers have a track record of successfully managing properties, renting them out and ensuring that incomes are generated?

If the answer to this is ‘no’, how then will they be able to generate the income that they are guaranteeing? This may be a sign that the property price has been ‘artificially’ increased to cover any foreseen shortfall in future income.

All-in-all, there’s a lot to consider. Guaranteed rental returns do offer investors a level of security, and it is natural for people to feel compelled to buy into them, and yes, there are some good offers on the market. But it’s worth remembering that in the right location, you’ll always be able to rent out a property.

As we always recommend at The Thaiger, do your homework!

To find thousands of available rental properties in Thailand, click HERE.

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News

30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands

Greeley Pulitzer

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30 dolphins greet visitors to Similan Islands | The Thaiger

Tourists were treated to the sight of a school of dolphins in the Similan Islands off the Phang Nga coast on Sunday.

Tour organisers said that around 30 dolphins swam close to the boat six or seven miles offshore, creating excitement for passengers. It was the first time dolphins had been seen in the vicinity since October 15.

The Similan Islands National Park director said they were bottlenose dolphins and were among several species now returning to the area following a five-year closure of the park for environmental rehabilitation. Food is again plentiful there for them, he said.

Tourists are forbidden to feed wildlife lest the free handouts alter the animals’ natural behaviour, and the park’s waters are also very sensitive to contamination from human disease and marine debris, according to the director.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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Business

500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies

Greeley Pulitzer

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500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies | The Thaiger

Roughly 36% of Thailand’s corporate equity is held by just 500 people, highlighting wealth inequality in the Kingdom, according to a study released by the Bank of Thailand’s research institute.

Each of these 500 amass some 3.1 billion baht (102 million USD) per year in company profits, according to the report from the Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research. In contrast, average yearly household income in Thailand is around 10,000 USD.

A report out this week from the Economic and Business Research Centre for Reform at Thailand’s Rangsit University also pointed to divisive and polarised politics being another root cause of the economic divide.

Thailand’s private sector is dominated by tycoons running sprawling conglomerates. According to the World Bank, the gap between the mega-wealthy and the rest of the Thai population of 69 million is among the many economic challenges for Thailand. According to Bloomberg, the perception of a divide, exacerbated by an economic slowdown, is a major political fault line.

“Magnates arise in Thailand from institutional factors that privilege certain businesses,” said the executive director of PIER, author of the study.

The institute said Thailand needs to promote competitiveness to reduce profits from monopoly power and bolster entrepreneurship to create a more equitable distribution of corporate wealth.

The research is based on analysis of 2017 Commerce Ministry data on the 2.1 million shareholders in Thai firms, and was funded by the University of California San Diego.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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