Sun, Sep 24, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Thai officials stage purification ritual for Bangkok airport


Buddhist monks apologized to the spirits and asked them to ward off all bad luck in preparations yesterday for the opening of Bangkok's new international airport next week.

Despite more than 40 years of planning, a welter of corruption scandals and most recently a military coup, officials confirmed that Suvarnabhumi International Airport would be ready for full domestic and international service on Thursday.

Just to be sure, 99 monks and Brahmin priests were called in to perform a ceremony at the new facility 32km east of Bangkok.

Chotisak Aspaviriya, head of the Airports Authority of Thailand, said the ceremony was staged to apologize to the spirits of the land for any offenses committed during the construction of the airport, along with the spirits of animals who died on what was once swampland infested with snakes and other creatures.

The monks and priests also asked the spirits to grant them use of the airport and ensure its prosperity. Despite their adherence to Buddhism, Thais are still deeply worshipful of animist spirits and Hindu deities that have nothing to do with the formal religion.

"Up to this moment I can still reassure you that the airport is 100 percent ready for commercial flight operations from September 28," airport manager Somchai Sawasdeepon said.

Officials said earlier that last week's military coup which toppled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra would not affect the scheduled opening. Touted as a key Asian air hub, the flashy airport is expected to accommodate as many as 45 million passengers a year.

Thaksin held up the airport as one of the landmark achievements of his regime despite the incessant scandals that continued to plagued the project, including alleged corruption in the purchase of baggage scanners.

A report on that affair is due to be released next week as part of a slew of investigations into wrongdoings under Thaksin over the past five years.

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