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t had stopped raining but the lowering clouds hid the moon. Noy could only stumble along blindly behind the flickering light from the torch. Before her she glimpsed the cowled figure of the spirit master only in silhouette and in snatches. The muddy path round the cemetery of NaKlua sucked at her shoes or treacherously slid from beneath the smooth soles. Banana trees lined the track and their leaves dripped the recent rain onto her blouse, chilling her skin despite the humidity. An errant breeze stirred the leaves into motion. They murmured softly that this was all folly but it was something she was impelled to do. Despite her University education, she still believed the tales exchanged by old women when the men had drunk themselves to sleep. Only the corpse oil, Nam Man Prai could help her now.

As a young girl she had listened as, in the dark of the night, the old women had told of the miraculous powers dissolved in the corpse oil. Two drops in food was enough to ensnare and captivate for life any partner desired by the user. Noy had felt Terry slipping away from her, imperceptibly at first then with greater certainty of late. She had known their relationship was doomed from the start; he was her boss; a known butterfly where women were concerned, yet she had thought she was different from the others. It was desperation that had brought her here in the early hours of the morning.

A neighbour had given her an address; a dingy house shop off Third road. An old crone had promised to relay messages between her and the spirit master. A recently buried female corpse was required or at least buried in the last forty nine days. The body was never burned for the earth was needed to soak away the anger of the Pi Tai Hong, someone who had died a violent and premature death. If the lady was pregnant the oil would be so much more powerful.

Noy had received the call earlier that evening. A Burmese woman working illegally had drowned herself, she had told others that she was with child; khao nok nah, rice grown outside the paddy, an illegitimate child. They were to sweat the oil by using a candle under the chin of the corpse before others did.

When the torchlight disappeared, Noy became almost frantic. The susurration of the leaves urged her to turn tail and forget this nonsense. Then she stumbled over the crouching, hooded figure, scrabbling in the soil. The sweet scent of death hung heavy in the air. She was given the torch so the spirit master could uncover the dead flesh. The smell got stronger; the more soil was pushed aside. Noy's breathe came in shallow pants as the fetid smell clung to her hair and clothes. Areas of bluish fatty flesh became visible. The corpse had been buried with no clothes in the hope that the ghost would be too ashamed to look for a substitute body. The lack of a coffin also helped the good earth to absorb any grievance the corpse might feel.

Noy had been led to believe that a candle was to be lighted under the chin of the corpse and the oil would sweat from the nose and mouth into a container. Then the spirit master produced a knife, he called it a mit mor which would prevent the spirits attacking him. When he began to saw off pieces of rubbery flesh from the body, her stomach heaved and she looked away. 'The rain has made it impossible to use a candle.' He grunted. From the corner of her eye she saw him put the flesh in a plastic bag. Then they retraced their steps to her car. Back in his lodgings, she watched as he heated the flesh and the oil dripped out. He gave her the small bottle with the fatty oil inside and she paid him the blood money though there had been remarkably little blood.

The oil was more potent than she could ever have dreamed possible. A couple of drops in his coffee at work and she saw his interest in her quicken immediately. Within the month they were married; a quiet ceremony in Phuket. Three months later she was with child. She and Terry were delighted. The oil was long finished but it had achieved everything she'd hoped for. She left her job and they bought a house on the East of Sukhumvit where they began to prepare a nursery.

Noy's death was sudden and tragic; she had been on stepladders painting the ceiling. Perhaps her swelling belly had made her clumsy. The fall broke her neck instantly and it was too early to save the baby. Terry was distraught. He went into a catatonic state and readily turned his wife's body over to the old women of her family. He specified only that she be buried in the cemetery of Naklua as it had a special place in her heart.

Another heavy rainfall poured down on the raised hump of her burial spot as two figures stealthily made their way to where she lay; the first held a knife. A muffled curse was uttered as someone slipped on the mud. The spirit master had returned with the old woman. He handed her the torch and in its flickering light, began to brush the sandy soil from the newly buried corpse. The banana leaves helped by seeming to channel the water in her direction. The sandy soil quickly eroded and Noy's face shone in the silver moonlight. Her expression was not the tranquil mask of death; anger was etched into every line. The old woman gasped in recognition. She had not known. A slithering noise intruded above the steady drip from the trees. She looked down with compassion on Noy's glittering and angry face.

As she reached out to touch her, Noy smiled and opened her sightless eyes: maybe her unborn child would see the light of day after all?

Fact or Fiction?
Unlike most people here in the Land of Smiles, former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra hasn't ever really been concerned about Thailand's current political tension.

When asked to comment he told reporters; "Be patient with the headache-inducing situation until July 2. Mars moving closer to Saturn causes the headache. When Mars leaves, the situation will ease." Like many powerful businessmen, Thaksin Shinawatra is a firm believer in astrology. For Westerners, the fact that such a prominent political figure could base his judgements on astrology and the predictions of a fortune teller is surprising and even a little unsettling. However, in Thailand decisions are often influenced by astrology, magic spells, superstitious beliefs and charms.

It is often reported that the Thai military regularly travels as a group to visit certain monks who are believed to have the power to predict the future. In the months before the military coup of 2006, there were widespread rumours that Cambodian monks specialising in black magic were regularly visited. Feng shui was also used as a military weapon and certain Bangkok landmarks were relocated in order to utilise positive energy flows.

Believe it or not, astrology and the supernatural heavily influence the daily life and decisions of a large number of Thai people. Take 35 year old Nam is a lecturer at a well known Bangkok university. Highly respected and admired, Nam told me that; "I always consult a fortune teller before making important decisions." In fact, she confesses that she seeks the advice of the mystic man for all sorts of occasions, such as before going on a date, moving house and even cutting her hair.