COVID to crypto-amulets: young Thais seek fortune-telling upgrades

  div classBodysc17zpet90 cdBBJodivpBy Patpicha Tanakasempipatp

  pBANGKOK Reuters – Thai masters student Dhidhaj Sumedhsvast didnt believe in fortunetelling or supernatural powers until the coronavirus pandemic started two years ago. pdivdivdiv classBodysc17zpet90 cdBBJodiv

  pNow, he regularly seeks the advice of fortunetellers, wears lucky amulets, and has pictures of tarot cards as wallpaper on his phone. p

  p“The pandemic has brought so many uncertainties that make us feel anxious,” said Dhidhaj, 30, who started by praying to Kubera, the God of Wealth in Hindu mythology and a Buddhist deity, for protection against the economic fallout from the pandemic. p

  p“When I started doing this, I felt safe. While others were affected by COVID and lost their jobs or income, I wasnt. So I believe in it more and more.” p

  pLike Dhidhaj, many in Thailands anxietygripped young demographic have started to embrace fortunetelling and other forms of divination. p

  pThe pandemic has moved Thailands distinct brand of divination from streets and storefronts to youthoriented social media, helping fortunetellers to reach a bigger audience. p

  p“With the world like this, people need spiritual anchors,” said Pimchat Viboonthaninkul, a 26yearold fortuneteller who works exclusively online and who cofounded Mootae World that started the tarot card phone wallpaper trend last year. p


  pThai culture has long been steeped in astrology and forms of divination such as palm reading, tarot cards or numerology.p

  pAn estimated 78 of the Thai population believes in the supernatural according to a 2021 study by Mahidol Universitys College of Management CMMU. p

  pFrom consulting with Feng Shui masters to wearing monkblessed amulets, Thai traditions all sit comfortably within the dominant Buddhist religion. p

  pThailands largely informal fortunetelling industry is estimated to attract around 5 billion baht of spending 150 million per year since the pandemic started, up from around 4 billion, according to A Duang, a startup whose fortunetelling application has grown to nearly half a million users, mostly aged 1830.p

  pThe app offers daily livestreams by some of its 7,000 fortunetellers, during which users can spend 10 to 100 baht 0.33 for quick insights. It also offers private oneonone card reading sessions at higher rates. p

  pA Duang managing director Kittikhun Yodrak said average peruser spending has surged fivefold to 500 baht monthly from its 2019 prepandemic launch. p

  pThe trend reflects a “breaking point” in stress levels that pushes many to seek quick answers from someone else rather than from within themselves, said Jomkhwan Luenglue, a board member of the Thai Psychological Association. p

  p“Its mental firstaid,” said Jomkhwan. “But it could jeopardise your ability to make decisions for yourself in the long term.” p


  pNew digital products have also boomed.p

  pMobile phone wallpaper maker Mootae World has made tens of thousands of images – each with different tarot cards and symbols – for clients phone screens.p

  pPriced at 249 baht 7.44, each is custommade according to the clients unique star positions at birth, plus their deepest wishes, whether financial or romantic. p

  pTraditionallooking Buddhist amulets – often images of guru monks or the Buddha made from bronze, brass or gold – are also available as nonfungible tokens NFTs.p

  pThai project Crypto Amulets has sold about 3,000 such NFTs since launching in 2021, each for about 2,000 baht 60 on the Ethereum and Solana blockchains. p

  pEach digital amulet is printed on paper first to be blessed by monks in Surin province, a huge market of Thailands Buddhist amulet trade 435 km east of Bangkok. p

  p“We used to wear physical amulets around our neck, but now we can carry NFT ones on our phones too,” said Ekkaphong Khemthong, who owns Crypto Amulets and also collects traditional amulets. p


  pMainstream business brands are recognising the new Thai psychic entrepreneurs as the keys to the growing market of young believers with disposable income. p

  pLast month, Mootae World promoted Cigna Corp insurance packages to their followers, tapping into Chinese astrologys “unlucky year” belief that in each zodiac animal year, those born with the same animal sign incur the curse of Tai Sui, the God of Age. p

  p“A new marketing trend has emerged. Trends are always changing, but supernatural belief is a constant in Thai society,” said Muratha Junyaworalug, head researcher of the CMMU study. p

  p“All the brands want to tap into this market.” p

  p1 33.48 bahtp


  pp Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat Editing by Kay Johnson and Jane Merrimanp

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