Friday, 28 March 2008



Amulets consecrated by the late Luang Poo Jiam of Wat Intrasukaram have become a compulsory uniform accessory for about 4,000 soldiers from the Northeast deployed in Pattani. They have been ordered to wear the amulets at all times or face a punishment of three nights behind bars.
Maj-Gen Thawatchai Samutsakorn, deputy commander of the 2nd Army Region and currently commander of the Pattani Task Force, said he had issued Luang Poo Jiam amulets to all the men in the four battalions deployed to the far South from the Northeast, and given strict orders that they wear them at all times.
It is not an unpopular order as amulets and Buddhist soldiers go hand in hand in the far South.
It is said that the number of talismans worn by the members of the 20 battalions in the far South far exceed the number of troops.
Some soldiers have over 100 amulets with them. Wearing amulets gives them confidence and they believe a sacred object will protect them from danger. ''This amulet makes me feel safe even if I don't have a bulletproof vest,'' one soldier said.
Maj-Gen Thawatchai, a native of Khon Kaen, has kept one amulet, from the ''King's soldiers'' collection, for himself. It is worn together with a small, inscribed, metallic scroll, or takrud.
Luang Poo Jiam was the abbot of Wat Intrasukaram in Sangkha district of Surin. He consecrated about 100,000 amulets shortly before he died two years ago at the age of 97.
It is one of the most sought-after collections for people in the Northeast.
Pvt Kiattisak Tangthong said he brought about 20 different amulets with him from his home in Surin and was given the Luang Poo Jiam amulet as an extra.
''I am happy to wear it because it will protect me from harm and also from punishment. Failing to wear it will put me in jail for three nights,'' the private said.
However, he realised his commanders issued the instruction with the best of intentions.
''They want us to be safe. That's all,'' he said.
Sgt Sitthiporn Thongsuk, 53, also from Surin, said he brought more than 100 amulets with him to the far South and usually wears more than 40 at a time. One is from Luang Poo Jiam's ''King's soldiers'' collection, but he bought it himself in Surin a long time ago.
''My Luang Poo Jiam amulet protected me during the Thai-Lao conflict, known as the Chong Bok battle, in 1988 and I hope Luang Poo Jiam will continue to help me,'' he said.
Maj-Gen Thawatchai said he began strictly enforcing the order after the bombing of a bus carrying his soldiers two weeks ago.
They were on the way back to Pattani after a short break in Khon Kaen. It was said some soldiers on the fourth bus were not wearing the amulet when the bus was attacked. They kept it in their rucksack instead.
Fifteen were injured. Those wearing the amulets on the other three buses were unharmed.
''I learned that some merely kept the amulets in their bags.
This was why they were not protected.
''So I have ordered them to wear it at all times,'' Maj-Gen Thawatchai said.

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