When spirituality used in Thai politics

Monks play an important role in spiritual and social aspects of Thailand. Remembering the incidents of a monk, a co-leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) has left many confused about the role of religious “neutral” people of the cloth. Extracts from Reuters’ 1st March article:

A young Thai man and woman are on their knees, their palms pressed in supplication to the saffron-robed Buddhist monk, an anti-government protest leader, looming before them. Accused of being pro-government spies they have been brought before the monk at a protest site in north of Bangkok by burly guards donning tinted sunglasses.

A 15-minute interrogation fails to convince the monk, Luang Pu Buddha Issara, of their innocence and he orders protest guards to keep them under close watch before striding on stage to tell supporters to fight against the “black-hearted” government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The monk’s role in political protests that have gripped Thailand – a predominantly Buddhist country – for months, has divided Thais as much as the protest itself.

He faces disciplinary action by the National Office of Buddhism, the organization in charge of overseeing monks’ behavior, for inappropriate conduct while the Buddhist Association of Thailand has threatened to disrobe him.

It is also worrying that right wing elements of the Democrat Party have accepted the involvement of Luang Pu into the political scene of the country.  Politicians of the oldest opposition party and their ally, PDRC, depend on the spiritual blanket approval to give their failed “Bangkok Shutdown” street riots legitimacy. Critics have said the involvement of Luang Pu may worsen the antagonism between the neo-fascist group and the pro-democracy “Red Shirt” movement, as what happened when religion is used as a weapon by Wirathu (a monk who calls himself “Burmese Bin Laden”) in neighbouring Myanmar.

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