Sacred oxen augur good times ahead for Thailand

Bangkok (AFP) –


Thai palace astrologers on Monday predicted a strong harvest after a pair of sacred oxen munched on grass and drank water and liquor in an annual ritual that tests the omens for the kingdom.

Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn presided over the colourful "royal ploughing ceremony", which saw Brahmin priests head a procession of the white oxen around a field outside Bangkok's Grand Palace.

The ceremony is held every year in Thailand, one of the world's top rice exporters, to mark the start of the growing season.

Royal soothsayers base their predictions on which foods the animals choose to eat after the ploughing, when they are offered bowls of rice, maize, green beans, sesame, liquor, water and grass.

This year the bulls chose water, grass and liquor, according to officials.

"The royal prediction is that rice, fruit and food will be plentiful," said Thanit Anekwit from the Agriculture Ministry.

The liquor also "means communication and trade with foreign countries will be facilitated well," he added.

After the ceremony crowds swarmed the field, as is tradition, to collect 'lucky' grains of rice that had been scattered over the soil during the ploughing.

Thailand's ultra-rich consitutional monarch has few legal powers but wields vast influence behind the scene.

The power of the crown is buttressed by elaborate ceremonies and protocol that lend the institution a semi-divine status.

Royals are also protected from any criticism by a draconian defamation law that can land offenders decades behind bars.