Thailand’s football boys prepare to ordain as Buddhist novices

Coach Ekkapol Janthawong, left, and members of the rescued football team attend a Buddhist ceremony believed to extend the lives of its attendees as well as ridding them of dangers and misfortunes in the Mae Sai district of northern Thailand on Tuesday, July 24. (AP)
Updated 24 July 2018
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Thailand’s football boys prepare to ordain as Buddhist novices

BANGKOK: Eleven boys from a football team, who were rescued from a flooded Thai cave in a drama that gripped global audiences, took their first steps on Tuesday to be ordained as Buddhist novices in a ceremony steeped in tradition.

The occasion was broadcast live on Facebook by local authorities and starts a process whereby the boys will live for nine days in a Buddhist temple — a promise made by their families in thanks for their safe return and in memory of one rescuer who died.

The rescue involved divers and volunteers from all over the world and ended on July 10 when the last of the group was brought to safety from inside Chiang Rai’s Tham Luang Cave in Northern Thailand.

The boys and their 25-year-old coach Ekapol Chanthawong had gone to explore the caves on June 23, where they became trapped. They survived for nine days on water dripping from rocks before they were discovered on a muddy mound by divers.

“The eleven boys will be ordained as novices, whereas Coach Ek will be ordained as a monk,” Rachapol Ngamgrabuan, an official at Chiang Rai’s provincial press office, told viewers on Facebook.

Buddhism is Thailand’s main religion and is followed by more than 90 percent of the population. One of the boys, fourteen-year-old Adul Sam-on is Christian and will not be ordained.

The 12 boys, aged 11 to 16, were discharged from a hospital last week and have been spending time at home. They spoke of their ordeal last week at a news conference organized by the Thai government.

Wearing simple white clothes, the boys pressed their palms together in prayer during the morning ceremony as a saffron-robed monk gave thanks for their safe rescue.

The boys and their coach lit yellow candle sticks at the Wat Phra That Doi Wao, a scenic temple in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district, where the boys are from.

Trays of sweets, fruits and sugary drinks were placed in front of Buddha statues wrapped in shiny gold cloth.

The boys will live as monks for nine days starting on Wednesday, Chiang Rai officials said in a statement on Sunday.

Along with their coach, they will have their hair shaved on Tuesday afternoon ahead of the main ordination ceremony on Wednesday.

Traditionally, many Thai men are ordained as Buddhist monks once they came of age — a practice thought to bring blessings and honor to Thai Buddhist families.


Thousands of protesters try to storm Georgia parliament

Updated 3 min 38 sec ago
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Thousands of protesters try to storm Georgia parliament

  • Tens of thousands rallied in Tbilisi, demanding speaker Irakli Kobakhidze step down after a Russian lawmaker addressed the country’s parliament from the speaker’s seat
  • The Russian MP’s presence in Georgia’s parliament prompted outrage in the ex-Soviet nation which in 2008 fought and lost a brief but bloody war with Moscow

TBILISI: Thousands of protesters attempted Thursday to storm the Georgian parliament in Tbilisi, furious that a Russian lawmaker addressed the assembly from the speaker’s seat during an international event.
Demanding that the parliamentary speaker resign, about 10,000 protesters broke riot police cordons to enter the parliament courtyard, an AFP reporter witnessed. Police pushed them back, but several protesters continued trying to enter the building.
Earlier, tens of thousands rallied in central Tbilisi, demanding speaker Irakli Kobakhidze step down after a Russian lawmaker controversially addressed the country’s parliament from the speaker’s seat.
Russian Communist lawmaker Sergei Gavrilov was speaking during an annual meeting of the Inter-parliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (IAO), a forum of lawmakers from predominantly Orthodox countries.
The Russian MP’s presence in fiercely pro-Western Georgia’s parliament prompted outrage in the ex-Soviet nation which in 2008 fought and lost a brief but bloody war with Moscow over breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
A group of Georgian opposition lawmakers demanded the Russian delegation leave the parliament’s plenary chamber.
Many protesters held Georgian and EU flags and placards that read “Russia is an occupier.”
“This is a spontaneous protest by ordinary Georgians, it has not been organized by any political party,” an MP from opposition European Georgia party, Giga Bokeria, told AFP at the rally.
Georgian oligarch Bidzina Ivanishvili — widely believed to be calling the shots in Georgia as the leader of his ruling Georgian Dream party — said in a statement that he “fully shares the sincere outrage of the Georgian citizens.”
He added that he told the speaker to suspend the session.
“It is unacceptable that a representative of the occupier country chairs a forum in the Georgian parliament,” Ivanishvili said.