Thailand frees 1,066 turtles to celebrate King’s birthday

A well-wisher holds a sea turtle at the Sea Turtle Conservation Center as part of the celebrations for the upcoming 65th birthday of Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun, in Sattahip district, Chonburi province, Thailand, July 26, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 July 2017
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Thailand frees 1,066 turtles to celebrate King’s birthday

THAILAND: Thais free 1,066 turtles to celebrate King’s birthday.
Hundreds of Thai schoolchildren and naval officers sent 1,066 turtles scuttling into the sea on Wednesday in an ceremony aimed at bringing good fortune to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who turns 65 on Friday.
The sea turtles, seen as symbols of longevity, waddled into the waves off Sattahip naval base in Chonburi province.
Many Thai Buddhists view freeing captive animals such as turtles or birds as a way to accrue good karma.
“Sea turtles are long-living animals. If we release them, it will help His Majesty to have a long life too,” said Eagarat Promlumpug, an officer who helps run the the navy’s turtle conservation program.
The center collects thousands of turtle eggs annually and nurtures the reptiles before releasing them into the Gulf of Thailand.
Royal birthdays are met with a flurry of fanfare and religious ceremonies in Thailand, where the monarchy is seen a pillar of moral authority.
Vajiralongkorn’s birthday, July 28, was declared a public holiday by the ruling junta after he took the throne late last year.
His father Bhumibol Adulyadej, who passed away in October 2016, was worshipped as a near demi-god during his 70-year reign.
Vajiralongkorn has yet to attract that level of devotion.
All royal family members are shielded from criticism by a draconian defamation law that has landed offenders decades in jail and forces all media in Thailand to self-censor.


Modi or Gandhi? Indian mystics split over poll outcome

Updated 22 March 2019
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Modi or Gandhi? Indian mystics split over poll outcome

  • Larra Shah expects Modi to be returned, but with a vastly reduced majority
  • Raj Kumar Sharma thinks opposition leader Rahul Gandhi will win

MUMBAI: Transgender mystic Zoya Lobo turns over three oracle cards, studies them for a minute and looks up. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will definitely win India’s general election this summer, she proclaims.
Clairvoyant Larra Shah also predicts a victory for Modi owing to his “extremely powerful aura,” but astrologer Raj Kumar Sharma thinks opposition leader Rahul Gandhi will win because his party’s moon sign is Virgo.
Vedic astrology is big business in Hindu-majority India and stargazers are making a host of predictions for the world’s biggest elections starting next month — their many followers hanging on every utterance.
Some 900 million voters are registered to cast ballots in the vote in April and May which will see Gandhi’s Congress party seek to dislodge Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from power.
Shah, 49, a celebrity holistic healer who practices tarot reading, says most of them will plump for Modi, himself a devout Hindu.
“When it comes to tarot cards Modi is like the emperor or the magician where the power of self-knowledge, of spiritual balance, of karma, is in perfection,” she explains to AFP.
“Rahul Gandhi is more like the devil because he’s always confused. There is a conflict there because he is a Gemini so has a dual personality,” Shah adds.
Modi, 68, and the right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP swept to power five years ago by winning 282 out of 543 seats, forming the country’s first majority government in almost three decades.
Shah expects Modi to be returned, but with a vastly reduced majority. Pre-election polling suggests an even closer contest, with many forecasting that neither party will win the 272 seats needed for a majority.
Lobo also has a prediction that hits closer to home for her — a 35 percent chance that Modi will do something to help India’s two-million-strong transgender community.
Indians consult soothsayers for advice on a raft of subjects from whom to marry to whether to buy a house or strike a business deal.
Many businessmen, Bollywood actors and politicians have personal astrologers scrutinize their stars closely to determine auspicious days to hold functions, release a movie or make political announcements.
For the election, Sharma says the planets are aligning in favor of Congress — based on the birth dates of the parties and their leaders — and that it will be able to persuade smaller, regional parties to join them in a coalition.
“Congress’s moon sign is Virgo and at present a favorable Jupiter Mahadasha (period) is happening for them while the BJP’s moon sign is Scorpio,” he explains.
“Rahul Gandhi’s favorable period has started and his moon is more powerful than Narendra Modi’s moon so my prediction is very clear: Rahul Gandhi will either become the prime minister or will make the prime minister with the support of his party.”
He sees the elections being “extremely volatile” because they were declared at an inauspicious time — when the sun was setting instead of rising — and that they may witness more violence between India and Pakistan.