Thai monks in spotlight after clash with military

Thai monks in spotlight after clash with military
A burning hot topic emerged after a clash between rallying monks and military officers at Buddha Monthon.
PHOTO: The Nation

THE US-ASEAN Summit in California didn't generate a lot of buzz among Thais on social media this week, with users initially more interested in talking about the political satirical parade that preceded the traditional football match between Chulalongkorn and Thammasat universities last Saturday.

But the burning hot topic emerged on Monday after a clash between rallying monks and military officers at Buddha Monthon.

The Sangha and Buddhists Alliance of Thailand staged the rally to show support for Somdej Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn, or Somdej Chuang, who has been nominated by the Sangha Supreme Council as the new Supreme Patriarch. The military tried to block the rally, as such an act is prohibited after the 2014 coup.

Video clips of the pushing and shoving were spread via mainstream and social media. The monks were seen attempting to push military vehicles out of their way and manhandling soldiers trying to keep them out. One monk was seen holding an Army officer in a headlock. Some posted video clips showing a military officer moving quickly towards the monks. Both sides have supporters who blame the other side for the incident.

Critics have also taken aim at acting Supreme Patriarch Somdej Chuang for failing to take action against Phra Dhammachayo, the controversial abbot of Wat Dhammakaya, whom the late Supreme Patriarch once accused of committing "parachik" (a great offence) after registering property donated to his temple under his own name.

Here are some of the comments in response to the issues facing Buddhism.

@hotdarkcoff wrote on Twitter: "#NokAir is really blessed. Saved by the monks. The issue of its pilot strike is almost out of the media space."

@dreamtuii wrote: "What? The NCPO will create unity and reconciliation? It can't make it peaceful even when it's about monks and Buddhism."

@Wasin_Ch wrote: "We have ignored the problems related to Buddhism for too long so they grow so deep and so big."

Buddhist advocate Saruttaya Rose Mahanavaranee wrote on Facebook that it is all Buddhists' duty to protect the religion as Dhammakaya's teaching are against Lord Buddha's teaching. She mentioned the scandals the Dhammakaya's leaders and supporters have faced including the purchase of land and luxury cars and a donation it received from the scandal-plagued Klong Chan Credit Union.

Meanwhile, Panatsaya Sungpan wrote: "You are already ordained. Can't you shed your desire? Monks are supposed to cut out their desires, take a precept and live morally - no demanding. Don't just put on the robe and call yourself monks so that people pay you respect and offer food to you. That's what is deteriorating the religion."

In response to the backlash, many social media users changed their profile pictures to a yellow logo with the message "We love Buddhism". They posted and shared messages with the hashtag #WhyWeLoveDamakaya. They said Dhammachayo had returned the land and there was no legal action against him so he still deserves to be a monk.

Some social media users saw the funny side of the dramas besetting Buddhism. Huay Toon's cartoon showed a monk failing to justify the Dhamakaya controversies.

Tharinee Muangmusit shared a picture of military personnel sitting on the stage usually reserved for monks to chant and perform religious ceremonies. The caption read: "Who cares? Nothing soldiers can't do. Monks are all gone to Buddha Monthon. Soldiers can chant by themselves."

It was later revealed that the personnel were military chaplains who were rehearsing religious ceremonies.

In another interesting post, Noppanan Arunvongse Na Ayudhaya recalled what Cambodians and Chinese had told him about political conflicts in their countries when he wrote:

"Religious ideology is stronger than political ideology. If a conflict grows, the damage can be unimaginable. Thailand is lucky not have had such a tragedy where blood and tears flow just because of craziness over religious and political ideologies.

"For every case, people should keep an open mind and consider the causes and the effects and believe in the justice system and not be divided.

After all, each side does not have only one million but millions of people, and they all are Thai."

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