Are you tired of your government wasting money on things you get no benefit from? Are you disappointed when your government says it’s going to clean house and then doesn’t? Maybe it’s time to move to Thailand, where the Minister of Labour, at the request of terrified workers and citizens, presided over an hour-long ceremony to cleanse the ministry’s building in Bangkok of the ghosts many believe reside there. Thai tax dollars well spent? Let’s find out.
“Many of the civil servants are scared, even my own secretary, but I’m not afraid personally.”
That bluster came from Thailand’s Ministry of Labour’s Permanent Secretary Jarin Chakkaphark while describing why he and his boss, Labour Minister Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew, ordered an exorcism on the building in the Din Daeng district where Thai workers are registered, skill development plans are put into place nationwide employment is monitored and promoted. This doesn’t sound like place you want people to be afraid to enter.
The building has been the site of a few tragedies, which may explain some of the spirits encountered there. In 2004, a senior official jumped to his death from the 15-story roof and, in 2013, an anti-government protester who was shot nearby died in the building where he had sought protection. According to The Nation, Jarin was concerned that there were more.
“This ceremony is auspicious. It’s a way of paying respect to the supernatural beings living here and telling the wandering spirits they have died and can move on to the next world.”
Belief in ghosts and spirits is widespread in Thailand, both within and outside the Buddhist religion. There are many well-known, named ghosts (Krasue, a ghost with just a woman's head and her internal organs hanging down from it; Nang Mai, a female ghost or fairy related to trees) and the majority are benevolent – although a recent spate of male deaths in a Thai village were blamed on the ghost of an old woman looking for a mate. Many homes and buildings have small spirit houses or shrines in front of them for the ghosts to live in, thus keeping them out of the way of humans. Either the Labour Ministry didn’t have a shrine or perhaps it was overcrowded.
“We are not driving them out disrespectfully, just informing them they should move on and not remain here scaring people.”
Narongsak Khukittirat, the Buddhist religious person who performed the exorcism, blamed the ghosts on a road through the ministry grounds that somehow kept the spirits there to spook employees and visitors. The ceremony itself was a little spooky too – at one point it was reported all of the candles were suddenly blown out. OK, it was outdoors but it looked like a lot of candles.
Thailand is no different than other countries when it comes to partisan politics. While some people were grateful for Labour Minister Saengsingkaew authorizing the exorcism, others said it was just a ghostly smoke screen to distract the public from an investigation into problems at his previous job as Minister of Social Development and Human Security. And Thailand’s Prime Minister, General Prayut Chan-o-cha, wasn’t there – not because he’s afraid of ghosts but because he’s upset with the ministry’s slow pace in non-ghostly tasks.
Tax money well spent? On second thought, maybe Labour Minister Saengsingkaew should have kept the ghosts for protection.