Last month Thongbai had informed the media of a prophecy made by his long-deceased son, according to which the Bhumibol Dam would have collapsed in December 31, 2011.
The huge dam was built between 1958 and 1964. It is located in Tak province, about 470 kilometers (290 miles) north-west of Bangkok. The Bhumibol Dam is 154 m (505 ft) tall, 486 m (1,594 ft) long and 8 m (26 ft) wide at its crest. It withholds a reservoir of 13,462,000,000 m3 (10,913,821 acre·ft).
According to Mr Thongbai, his son made the prophecy 37 years ago. Thongbai claims that his son had also predicted the 9/11 and the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami.
As is clear now, the dam is still standing, so the prophecy proved wrong. Moreover, provincial officials says the false alarm has caused a 90% decline in the number of tourist arrivals during the holiday season, leading to a public loss estimated
at 400 million baht, equivalent to about $13,3 million.
Now Thongbai risks jail, but what are exactly the charges against him? Spreading a prophecy? Spreading a false story? Spreading a prediction which fortunately did not turn out correct? Abusing public credulity? In other words, this old man believes he has heard of a prophecy (which is a prediction of the future, a hypothesis about a future event) and consequently wanted to warn other people. As with any forecast of the future, the prophecy had X% probabilities to be right and X% to be wrong. It was wrong, and Mr Thongbai risks jail. If his warning had indeed turned out to prove correct, would he still deserve to be prosecuted? Or instead he would become a hero or a sort of new prophet, sorcerer, medium or visionary?
Phantoms, apparitions, prophecies, witch-crafts and other such things are rather common in Thailand. "If every single person who spread false rumours and prophesies in this country was to be prosecuted by being either jailed or fined," wrote
Atiya Achakulwisut in the Bangkok Post, "then Thailand could become either a prison-land or filthy rich." The same, I'm afraid, would be true for the rest of the world. Nostradamus apparently predicted the end of the world for July 1999. Charles Wesley, one of the founders of the Methodist church, believed that the world was going to end in 1794. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have made a number of predictions about the end of the world. The first was 1914, even though after the end did not come they changed the meaning of the prediction and stated that it was the date that Jesus would begin to "rule invisibly." Some other years that the group have predicted the end of the world to come are 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975, 1994, etc.
Nowadays there are scores of people who believe in Saints or "Marian apparitions" with prophecies, messages and "secrets" of Our Ladies of Lourdes, Medjugorje, Fatima, Loreto and so on and so forth. Besides, there are billions who believe in prophesies about the End of the World: all the major world religions preach the concept of an "End of Days." Do you really think that all those who believe or spread such fantasies or prophesies deserve jail or fines? Or maybe they deserve jail or fines only when their predictions are proved wrong, while they should be praised when when the "prophecy" is right? (Actually, most of the times "prophesies" are so general that they can be interpreted in one way or another.) By the way, if you believe that all the Thongbais of the planet should be jailed or fined... what about "freedom of expression"?
In conclusion, perhaps in capitalist and consumerist societies such believers and gullible individuals deserve jail or fines only when the prophecy causes economic damage. If this is the case, then the "messages" and "prophecies" of the various European Madonnas are positive, because they generate tourism and they bring a lot of money to the communities which host the sanctuaries, as well as to the companies which organize the "holy tours." On the other hand, Thongbai's prophecy is negative because led to a decrease in tourism and revenues. So the Lourdes, Medjugorje, Fatima, Loreto's charlatans, "prophesies" or "secrets" should be encouraged, while Thongchai should be sentenced to life imprisonment. In the name of the God of Money. Well, I have the impression that this is the true rationale behind all such oddities.