There’s been a long-running security problem in the south. Almost every day there is a report of murder. The protagonists are either Moslem freedom fighters or straightforward criminals, depending upon your point of view. However, today’s murder report was even more horrific than the usual tales of poor Buddhist farmers being decapitated or villagers being blown up at the market.Insurgents shot a Moslem man who was suspected of cooperating with the authorities. They then attempted to cut off his head. They then drove six inch nails into his arms, legs and head in an attempt to crucify him. He was left, attached to his cross in the middle of a road.

And for kicks, these insurgents then kidnapped two Buddhist fishmongers and decapitated them.

Sometimes I wish I weren’t human; I have nothing in common with these monsters.


Last Saturday was the full moon day of the 12th lunar month, or Loi Krathong, which literally means “launch krathong” – not that that helps much. A krathong is a small, lotus-shaped vessel made out of banana leaf and decorated with flowers, a candle, three incense sticks, a coin and hair and nail clippings.The weather has changed. It’s now cool and breezy. The rains have finished, and the water levels are high. It’s the start of a new year, and time to let go of the past. As one watches one’s krathong float into the distance, it takes one’s sins and bad luck with it.

Krathong, large and small

My krathong (image below) was made by the mother of a friend, but there are plenty of roadside stalls selling them if you don’t want to make your own. Often, the base is now made of styrofoam, which is less than ecologically friendly, so some shops sell bread krathong, which give you extra merit as the fish eat the bread.

My krathong, 2007

Loi Krathong also a time for partying. The streets were clogged with youngsters on their motorbikes. Big fairs were set up on almost any piece of vacant ground. The river banks were crowded with revellers.

Unfortunately, every year the high jinks results in deaths. This year a truck slammed into a motorbike and side car, killing seven villagers, including two elderly people and a four year old girl. The newspapers poignantly report that the victims’ krathongs were found scattered around the scene. Another truck hit three people on a motorbike, killing them all. The driver fled the scene.
Elsewhere a violent brawl ended in one death; the victim was shot. And Tomoko, a female Japanese tourist, was murdered, her throat slit and belongings stolen.

Beauty and brutality, all on one day.


About 20 km outside Ayutthaya stands Wat Kai – or in English, “Chicken Temple”. And, indeed, it does have chickens scratching about. However, it’s much better known for its monkeys than its fowl. They slowly loll across the temple grounds as if they own the place. Perhaps to keep them away from the main temple, there’s a man-made cliff on the opposite side of the road. Here visitors feed them fruit.

Unlike other monkey groups I’ve encountered, these aren’t aggressive; they won’t grab food from your hand or try to raid your pockets. They just wait to be fed. And by the number of banana skins littering the place, they’re fed well.

The temple is also known for its dozens of life size plaster figures, most of which feature the torments of hell. Whereas in the Christian tradition one is judged at the gates of heaven, according to Thai beliefs, one descends first to hell where one is judged and suitably punished until the penalty has been paid, before ascending to heaven, and later being reborn. Here’s the judge:

The punishment relates to the wrongs that one has done. Adulterers, for example, have to climb a spiny tree to escape from savage dogs, whilst having their genitals eaten by crows. Alcoholics have to drink from a red-hot bottle. The worst offenders get boiled alive.

Starving is another form of punishment; the tall figure on the right with the long tongue has a tiny mouth, so she can’t get enough nourishment. Other figures are being sawn in half, having limbs chopped off, bearing immense weights, and generally having a pretty bad time. The X-rated tableaux are all rather disturbing. Fortunately for you, dear reader, my camera battery went flat shortly after I arrived, so you are spared more gruesome pictures.