A woman in Thailand has been trampled to death in the stampede to get one of the prized Jatukam Amulets. The 'magical' amulet is supposed to bring instant good luck.
Details of the Thailand's obssession with the Jatukarm talismans are here in a previous FunkyPix2 article. Charms and amulets, even though they are not Buddhist in origin, are superstitiously revered by most Thais. There has been recent criticism of Buddhist Wats for profiting enormously from sales of blessed amulets, and for contriving to manufacture more when supplies run low. Some of the original ones, dating back to the 1980s, are selling for between US$16,000 - $18,000 each.
Like other systems of belief, things can go all wrong when Ritual takes precedence over Common Sense, when commerce wrenches dominance from benevolent spirituality. I don't think this is a culturally insensitive thing to say, just an observation. I live here and love Thai people, but by the same token, it helps to be on the outside looking in - an 'alien', as Thai Immigration so genteely expresses it.
This sadly twisted amulet fixation serves to throw light on the Thai people's present mood of uncertainty, and shows how commerce has taken advantage of people's fears and hopes, nay, even their desperation to secure a safer future. Condolences to the unlucky lady's family.
May 27 2007 update: Sanity prevails - a revered Buddhist monk has been courageous enough to be a whistle-blower. He aligns with FunkyPix2 when he said that education for greedy monks should be stepped up so they could learn the difference between Buddhist and Brahman [sic] beliefs. Someone had to bell the cat.