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On 11 May 2021, the National Office of Buddhism arranged a prayer ceremony to raise Thai people’s morale and the fortunes of the country amidst new outbreaks of Covid-19.

Monks at Wat Bang Prue chanting the Ratana Sutta prayer on 11 May 2021. (Source: Trat Provincial Office of Buddhism)

Anucha Nakasai, Minister to the Office of the Prime Minister, assigned the National Office of Buddhism to arrange prayer ceremonies to raise morale and the fortunes of the country. The Sangha Supreme Council of Thailand scheduled the ceremonies for 11 May 2021, at 17.00.

The ceremonies took place at Wat Traimit Withayaram Worawihan in Samphanthawong District, and Wat Ratchabophit Sathitmahasimaram Ratchaworawihan and Wat Phra Chetuphon (Wat Pho) in Phra Nakhon District. They were also broadcast on television.

Two Buddhist chants, the Ratana Sutta and the Maharatchaparit, were used in the ceremonies. The Ratana Sutta chant, which is believed to help avoid the dangers of a plague, was also used in a ceremony on 25 March 2020 together with the Maharatchaparit, a prayer given by King Vajiralongkorn, which is believed to provide protection.

10,000 Maharatchaparit (Phra Parit) chant books were distributed to people joining the ceremony on 11 May. The book includes 12 Buddhist chants used in the past for protection of the king and the kingdom. Later, the people introduced the Phra Parit chant into their own prayer ceremonies. 

The National Office of Buddhism delivered the chant books to every province in the country. King Vajiralongkorn also gave permission for the Maha Ratchaparit chant book to be downloaded from the National Office of Buddhism's website. Further information is also available at 0 2441 7992.

29 chants were included in the prayer book, one of which is the chant ‘Co-vi-ta-ro-ku-pa-sa-ma-khata’. The content of the chant asks for Covid-19 to be eradicated from Thailand and for the king’s grace to bless everyone with happiness.

Co-vi-ta-ro-ku-pa-sa-ma-khata, one of the chants in the Maha Ratchaparit chant book.

Beside Buddhist ways of raising morale, Hindu beliefs are being used. On 15 May, Yong Poovorawan, professor of paediatric hepatology at the Faculty of Medicine of Chulalongkorn University, posted pictures of statues of Lord Ganesh treading on Covid-19 that he received from Kittipong Suriyathongchuen, an artist from Chiang Mai.

Yong stated in the post that Lord Ganesh is the god of eliminating obstacles and of success, and to fight terrible diseases such as Covid-19 requires knowledge, intellect and perseverance.

As of 27 May 2021, Thailand has had 143,280 cases of Covid-19, 91,765 of which have recovered while 50,595 remain hospitalized. The current death toll is 920.

As of 25 May 2021, 3.1% of the population (2,157,609 people) had received at least 1 dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. 1.4% of the population (989,618 people) has been fully vaccinated.

In the past 20 years, Thailand has faced 5 pandemics: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Ebola, Avian Influenza and Covid-19.  The extent of damage and government measures varied in each case.

In 2004, an outbreak of Avian Influenza caused a fear of consuming chicken and egg products. The government of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra adopted measures to relieve Thai people’s concerns during the pandemic. An ‘Eating Thai Chicken is 100% Safe’ festival was held on 7 February 2004 to reassure the Thai people about consuming well-cooked chicken and boiled eggs.

Chicken and egg meals were cooked and distributed to people. Singer and actor Thongchai ‘Bird’ McIntyre also joined the festival and ate with the cabinet and the former Prime Minister to encourage Thais to have confidence in Thai chicken products. There was also a concert featuring several artists as an incentive for people to attend the festival.

There was a picture of the former Prime Minister alongside Sudarat Keyuraphan, the former Minister of Public Health, and Suriya Juangroongruankit, the former Minister of Transport, eating KFC fried chicken.

Similarly in 2007, Yuenyong ‘Aed Carabao’ Opakul, the singer and guitarist of the Carabao band, released the song ‘Kai Wad Nok’ (Avian Influenza) about the rapid spread of the virus in poultry which caused the government to have a large number of chickens slaughtered to stop the outbreak, had the Prime Minister publicly eating chicken to demonstrate its safety.

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