Seventy per cent of Thais wear them, fuelling a trade worth more than a billion euros. And in the age of Covid-19, their online sale is also growing.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) - In Thailand, the amulet "industry" knows no crisis. It continues to thrive despite the pandemic, which has put pressure on most of the country's production and commercial activities, forcing many to close.
It is estimated that 70% of Thais wear amulets. They are often bought in Buddhist temples as souvenirs of a visit, a religious event or a period of spiritual retreat, or to perpetuate the experience of meeting a revered monk in one's home or elsewhere.
The charms are not just bought to collect and exchange, but also at the centre of a real trade. It is estimated that it is worth more than a billion euros a year and has tens of thousands of sellers and millions of buyers, increasingly abroad.
The search for better health, economic wellbeing and positive relationships with others are at the root of this practice, which perpetuates centuries-old craft traditions, but is often interpreted as a commercialisation of the faith that more rigorous sectors of the Buddhist clergy discourage.
This despite the fact that a significant part of the income of temples and monasteries depends on it in a country where Buddhism is the foundation of national identity, along with the territory and the monarchy.
The variety of forms and images is an attraction for collectors as well as for Buddhist devotees. Age, materials, type of depiction, origin and above all the authors make a difference in value. The most expensive one so far was bought for the equivalent of €2.7 million by Thai millionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, former owner of English football club Leicester City. Vichai was reportedly not wearing the amulet when his helicopter crashed on his team's pitch in October 2018
The popularity of amulets even among foreign collectors has helped make them the target of alternative investments. Thus, the US-based Wwin Group, which like others is experimenting with its own services for digital identification of religious objects, has anticipated the launch of the first online marketplace for Thai sacred amulets.
This initiative is a response to the limitations caused by the pandemic and paves the way for further development of the exchange and sale of these particular devotional objects.