BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha admitted on Tuesday he had sought advice from fortune-tellers following media speculation over his spiritual beliefs.
Prayuth led a May coup that toppled a democratically elected government after months of mass protests that brought much of the capital Bangkok to a halt. He was named prime minister last month in an appointment that was condemned by opponents.
“There’s no harm in listening to fortune-tellers. Fortune- telling is an art. But if a fortune-teller tells a person that they will be rich and then they stay in bed all day, then what is the use?” Prayuth told reporters on Tuesday.
“I listen to their words. They warn me that I might clash with the media,” he quipped.
Prayuth told an audience earlier this month he had doused himself from head to toe in holy water to ward off curses his enemies had put on him.
Bangkok’s skyline is that of a country hurtling toward modernity, but pre-Buddhist animist beliefs continue to exert strong influence on Thai culture. Many of the country’s top politicians have consulted fortune-tellers over policy changes.
Prayuth denied traveling to neighboring Myanmar to seek advice from a famous mystic – known as ET – whose clients have included former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a telecommunications tycoon who won huge support among the poor but made many enemies among the elite and royalist establishment.
Thaksin was ousted by the army in a coup in 2006 and Prayuth’s team is still seeking to end his pervasive influence over Thai politics. Thaksin reportedly visited ET just days before he was removed from office.
“I’ve never been to ET. Even if you wanted me to go I would never,” said Prayuth.
(Reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Simon Webb)