Buddhist Temples of Thailand

Buddhist Temples of Thailand

Buddhism is the main religion of Thailand. About 94 to 95% of people in Thailand are Buddhist; hence it is an integral part of their culture and tradition. The Buddhists are very peaceful and spiritual people because the very principle of their religion is non violence. They live their life with utmost simplicity and spread the message of love and peace wherever they go. They are very spiritual people and elaborately express their devotion to the god, the Buddha. They have magnificent temples which are called monasteries, where they perform various rituals and chant prayers from their religious books to connect to god and pray for peace and harmony.

There are about more than 40,000 Buddhist temples in Thailand spread far and wide across the country. Almost every nook and corner of the country has a Buddhist temple, where people offer their prayers to their god. Some of the temples are centuries old and have high regard in the religious life of the Thais. Some temples have been destroyed in time and only their ruins remain. The Buddhist temples in Thailand have been classified into different categories like royal temples and temples according to the region. The Royal temples have been further classified into special class, first class, second class and third class. Region wise classification includes Northern, North-eastern, Western, Eastern, Central and Southern Thailand. These temples are widely popular for their elaborate architecture, stunning murals, fascinating Buddha images and paintings and its historical and cultural significance. The intricate wood carvings, the minute paintings, the vibrant and colourful look, the elaborate decorations yet the simplicity makes it one of the most revered shrines.

Every year thousands of people, both Buddhists and non-Buddhists come here to see and experience these temples from far and wide places. It is nothing less than a pilgrimage to them. These temples play a very important role in the life of the Thais. It shapes up their religious and social life. It is their medium to connect to god and protect themselves from the misery of this world. These temples are run and maintained by monks who are highly respected in the Thai society. These monks give up the material world and surrender themselves to the service of god, living life in the simplest way and spreading the message of god. They teach us the virtues of simplicity and honesty. They show us how we can discard all the material greed and live life in the most simplest and fulfilling way. The temples they live in spread the same message. The spiritual and sacred environment of the temples instils in us a deep sense of gratitude and devotion. The aesthetic beauty of these temples pleases our eyes, the sanctity cleanses our soul and the purity energises us to discard our sinful ways and devote ourselves to spreading the values of love and care wherever we go. The peace and harmony that you experience has no comparison and cannot be bought with any amount of money.

Indonesia sets an example

Indonesia sets an example

Indonesia will mount an impressive specta­cle of popular choice, in which around 174m voters across 14,000 tropical islands will choose a president and vice-president and 560 parliamentarians. The chances are good that, as in the previous national elections in 2004, polling will be mostly peaceful and that the overwhelming majority of successful candidates will be committed to a pluralistic Indonesia with freedom of both speech and religion. Once again, the world’s most populous Muslim country will demonstrate that there is nothing incompatible between practicing Islam and being democratic.

This achievement will be all the more remarkable considering where Indonesia was just ten years ago: in chaos. After three decades in power, the authoritarian regime of President Suharto had collapsed amid rioting and no one knew what might take its place. Could such a huge, diverse and impoverished archipelago, with hundreds of ethnic groups, possibly hold together, given the weakness and corruption of its national institutions?

Since then the country has consistently surprised on the upside, even if the pace of reform has been ploddingly slow. Indonesia’s shattered finances have been repaired. It has developed a free press. The army’s hands have been prized from the levers of power. And, above all, Indonesia has become a democracy in which the voters can chuck out their government. Freedom House, an American think-tank, now rates Indonesia as the only completely free country in South-East Asia–putting its richer neighbours, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, to shame.

Popular Wisdom

Popular Wisdom

The elections allowed Indonesians, for the first time, to choose their president directly. The man they selected, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a liberal ex-general, was deemed by international observers to have been the wisest choice from those on offer. Though the speculation about possible presidential candidates and governing coalitions has already begun, the parties will wait and see how they do in the legislative elections in April before entering into serious talks about the presidential vote (whose first round will be in July with a run-off, if needed, a few months later).

Even so, it is quite likely that the two main presidential contenders will be the same as last time: Mr Yudhoyono and his immediate predecessor, Megawati Sukarnoputri. Mr Yudhoyono’s popularity has been dented by decisions to cut fuel and electricity subsidies, so as to avert financial ruin and redirect state spending towards the poorest. Miss Megawati has been on a meet-the-people comeback tour since early 2008 and has benefited from discontent over rising living costs. Yet the election is Mr Yudhoyono’s to lose.

A few other candidates will run, probably including Wiranto, a former army chief indicted by a UN-backed tribunal over the violence that accompanied the break­away of the former East Timor in 1999. Mr Wiranto will argue that an old-fashioned strongman is what the country needs but it will be surprising if he does any better than the third place he got in 2004. Golkar, the party that used to support Suharto, is now led by Vice-President Jusuf Kalla but his opinion-poll ratings are probably too weak for him to win the presidency. Thus Golkar may, as in the second round in 2004, offer him for the vice-presidential slot on Mr Yudhoyono’s ticket.

FM says Islamophobia in world declining

FM says Islamophobia in world declining

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said Islamophobia in the world had decreased but the Islamic community needs to continue its efforts to correct wrong perceptions about Islam.

The foreign minister made the remarks in an annual coordination meeting of countries grouped in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) at the United Nations` headquarters here on Friday (Saturday in Indonesia).

“When we met here last year we were concerned over the negative image of Islam in various parts of the world. Now the frequency of incidents related to Islamophobia has declined,” the Indonesian foreign minister said.

He said the decline in Islamophobia was the result of better communications made by various parties in convincing the world that Islam is a peace-loving and compassionate religion.

In this regard , Indonesia itself, he said, had continued to make efforts to convince the world about the true teachings of Islam.

The efforts included the holding of the Third International Conference of Islamic Scholars in Jakarta in July, a Global Intermedia Dialog and an Interfaith Youth Camp.

“Efforts made by other Islamic countries have also begun to yield results,” Hassan said.

During the coordination meeting, which was held on the sidelines of the 63rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, the Indonesian foreign minister also referred to the world`s food crisis and what role the OIC could play to overcome it.

He said food availability was decreasing in line with the increasing world population growth while prices of basic necessaries such as rice and wheat had also increased two-fold.

“As most of us, OIC members, are agricultural countries, we can play a role by increasing our food production,” he said calling on OIC members to put emphasis on development of the agricultural sector.

“Let us empower our farmers,” he said.

Various events keep tourist number high

Various events keep tourist number high

The peak season may be over, but the number of foreign tourists visiting Bali is projected to remain high this month due to several international events being held on the popular island.

In October, Bali will host the Nusa Dua Fiesta, Asian Beach Games 2008 and Kuta Karnival.

Head of the Bali chapter of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI), Perry Markus, said Monday that in October alone at least 6,500 foreign tourists were expected to come to Bali per day, a similar to the figure experienced during the July-September high season earlier this year.

While average tourism levels for October in Bali sit around the 4,500 per day mark, Perry, also a hotel owner in the famous Kuta beach area, says this year’s levels could be the highest in Bali’s history.

“October usually constitutes the low season for tourism in Bali, but this October Balinese tourism will get a kind of reward,” he said.

“These (events) will automatically increase the hotel occupancy rate in Bali as well.”

Yus Suhartana, a transportation business owner in Bali, has noticed an increased demand for vehicles in preparation for the high numbers of visitors.

“This month there have been many orders for tourism vehicles,” he said.

“There are a wide variety of vehicles for hire including minibuses, with a capacity of eight seats. Each of them has been ordered for hire.” Data from the Bali Tourism Office show the number of foreign tourist arrivals in Bali reached 1.29 million in the period between January and August this year, with visits registered in July and August both peaking at more than 200,000 per month.

Palambang Get ASEAN award

Palambang Get ASEAN award

Palembang, the capital city of South Sumatra, will officially receive an ASEAN award for being the cleanest city in Indonesia, to be presented in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Wednesday.

One city in each ASEAN country, except Singapore, will receive a cleanest city award, in categories for clean water, land and air, Palembang mayor Eddy Santana said Tuesday.

“We are so happy to receive this award. This achievement is part of our success. Residents and officials have cooperated to realize Palembang’s potential as the nation’s cleanest city,” said Eddy, adding the success was also partly the work of previous municipal administrations.

Eddy said Palembang had once been considered the dirtiest city in Indonesia, especially at the 16 Ilir traditional market and around pack Ampera bridge.

That was until the city launched a campaign with the motto BARI (Clean, Safe, Neat and Beautiful) during the 1980s to encourage citizens to transform the dirtiest city into the cleanest, he said.

The government’s cleanest city award incentive program prompted all provinces in Indonesia to clean up their act.

Palembang managed to receive the Adipura award twice in a row (2006-2007) for its success in cleaning the city.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has also declared Palembang the cleanest city in Indonesia this year. “We hope that the award will encourage us to keep the city even cleaner,” said Eddy, adding that Palembang received the honor because of its success in developing clean land and providing clean water for more than 80 percent of its residents.

RI does not want to be trapped

RI does not want to be trapped

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said Indonesia did not want to be trapped in the dichotomy of climate change discussions between two interests in the world.

President Yudhoyono made the statement after listening to a report from Indonesian representatives about the preparation of the country`s participation in the 62nd UN General Assembly at UN Plaza`s Millennium Hotel in New York Sunday night.

The Indonesian head of state admitted that there were two opinions about the meaning of climate change. He said that the first opinion was that the climate change did not pose a threat, and the second one was that it was a real threat to the world.

Therefore, Yudhoyono added that Indonesia did not want to be trapped in the dichotomy.

“In fact we have been suffering from the result of climate changes,” Yudhoyono said, referring to droughts, floods, landslides, and tidal waves (tsunami) which had hit several parts of the country.

Consequently, the president said the Indonesian government has opted to something in its effort to save the earth from further destruction.

“Therefore, the issue of climate change is real,” Yudhoyono said, adding that the objective of his participation in the UN forum on climate change was to strengthen Indonesia`s position in gaining concrete benefit from global cooperation.

According to the president, Indonesia has the world`s second largest tropical rain forests after Brazil.

“In addition, we have a large amazon of the seas. On the other hand, Indonesia is considered a contributor of carbon dioxide because of the frequent forest fires in the country,” Yudhoyono said.

Democratization in un security council

Democratization in un security council

Indonesia underlines the need for a democratization of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) by among others putting an end to the misuse of the veto right of its members.

“The practice of misusing the veto right by the permanent members of the UNSC that often paralyzed the council must no longer be allowed,” Indonesian foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda told the 63rd UN General Assembly (UNGA) meeting here on Saturday (local time).

Democratization is one of the aspects that Indonesia has paid its attention to in the meeting besides issues of food crisis and climate change.

Hassan said state sovereignty had to be protected if the world wants to see the spirit of democracy in international relations.

“This is important because without democracy a world organization like the UN will not be effective,” he said.

“The failure of the Security Council so far in dealing with various challenges to global security was the result of its being still undemocratic,” he said.

The minister said to make the Security Council more democratic, the exercise of a veto by the UN permanent members must be regulated.

So far only the permanent members have a vetoright, namely the US, the UK, France, Russia and China.

Parliamentary introduces fresher faces

Parliamentary introduces fresher faces

Whereas the presidential race will feature some very familiar per­sonalities, the parliamentary contests will also introduce fresher faces. In recent elections for provincial governors, voters have spurned established figures. This has convinced the main parties that they will need an infusion of new blood to do well in the parliamentary races: Miss Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) says up to 70% of its candidates will be newcomers.

At first sight the parliamentary elections look like a recipe for confusion. There will be something like 12,000 candidates from 38 parties bat­tling for the 560 seats. This is a big increase on the num­bers in 2004 but the next parliament will in fact be less fragmented than the current one. This is mainly because a new rule requires parties to get at least 2.5% of the na­tional vote to win any seats. Of the 17 parties that won seats in 2004 only eight would have met that test.

Furthermore, several mid-sized parties, such as the National Awakening Party of Abdurrahman Wahid (president in 1999-2001), are riven by splits. So the new parliament will be dominated by Golkar, the PDI-P and Mr Yudhoyono’s Democrats–all of which are staunchly secularist–plus the mildly Islamist Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

The PKS, like the smaller Islamist parties, has found that moderating its calls for SHARIA and embracing pluralism is the only way to win new votes. It will be the cost of living that dominates the campaign, not theology.

Riot-prone because of hunger

Riot-prone because of hunger

Democratization in the Security Council also means distributing membership evenly namely not to geographical representation only, he said. “In view of that the majority of world civilization also has to be represented. The number of Moslems in the world reaching 1.1 billion needs to be represented in the Security Council if the Council really wants to be democratic,” he said.

He said Indonesia also felt the importance of democratization at regional levels. “In the Association of Southeast Asian Naions (Asean) we have paid attention to it. We have changed Asean into a community committed to advancing democracy and human rights,” he said.

In this context, the minister said Indonesia in December 2008 would launch a Bali Democracy Forum which is open to countries in Asia and the Pacific for an exchange of experience in developing democracy.

On the food crisis the minister reminded that the problem was really serious. “I did not exaggerate it. According to the FAO the price of foods will continue to be high in the next three or five years,” he said.

He also said that rice supplies had fallen to the lowest level since mid-1970s, adding supply of flour had also dropped to its lowest point since 1948.

He said a dire need of food was seen in various parts of the world, as shown by several food-related riots in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Carribean.

Thirty-three countries with different socio-political backgrounds are riot-prone because of hunger and starvation in certain countries.

“We must in full spirit overcome global food supply vulnerability, otherwise there will be a food crisis that may threaten peace in the developing countries and pockets of poverty in the developed countries,” he said.