King attends ploughing ceremony

Sacred oxen being offered food during yesterday's ploughing ceremony in Bangkok, where they predicted a bountiful harvest.
Sacred oxen being offered food during yesterday's ploughing ceremony in Bangkok, where they predicted a bountiful harvest.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BANGKOK • Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn attended an annual ploughing ceremony yesterday, where sacred oxen predicted a bountiful harvest, auguring well for the rice exporter's hopes of selling more this year.

The royal ploughing ceremony is an ancient Brahminical rite that heralds the start of the new rice growing season.

The rite, broadcast on national television, is celebrated in the kingdom as a holiday for state employees. Thailand is the world's second-largest rice exporter, and the grain is a staple food in the South-east Asian country.

The King was accompanied by his eldest daughter as he presided over the ceremony, during which oxen draped in red and gold circled a ceremonial ground nine times.

The number nine is considered lucky in Thailand, where it is pronounced "gao", which rhymes with a word meaning to move forward or progress.

A similar ceremony was held in neighbouring Cambodia, watched by King Norodom Sihamoni. There, royal oxen predicted a good harvest this year for rice, beans and corn.

Thailand targets padi rice production of 25 million tonnes to 26 million tonnes for this year to next year, down from 30 million tonnes in the last crop year. The country also aims to export 10 million tonnes of rice this year.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2017, with the headline 'King attends ploughing ceremony'. Print Edition | Subscribe