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Exclusive - Thai govt seeks law to bring more order to Buddhism


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Exclusive - Thai junta seeks law to bring more order to Buddhism

By Panarat Thepgumpanat and Patpicha Tanakasempipat

REUTERS

 

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FILE PHOTO: Buddhist monks from Dhammakaya temple confront Thai soldiers at a gate of Dhammakaya temple in Pathum Thani province, Thailand, March 9, 2017. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

 

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's military government is working on a law to help regulate Buddhism, officials say, giving the junta far more say over a pillar of Thai society that has so far eluded its control.

 

The proposed bill, which has not been made public, would appear to significantly reduce the say of the Sangha Supreme Council, Buddhism's governing body in Thailand.

 

A source within the government who did not wish to be named said the bill would set up a new committee that would set policies to "support and protect Buddhism," though it wouldn't touch on religious practices.

 

The bill would give monks chosen by the Sangha Council only three of the 27 seats on the committee. Other seats would go to the prime minister, police chief, a number of other senior officials as well as experts on Buddhism, members of Buddhist universities and representatives of Buddhist groups chosen by the prime minister, the source said.

 

"The bill does not 'support', but forces monks to obey and stay under state governance, which is inappropriate," Phra Metha Winairos, deputy dean of Mahamakut Buddhist University, told Reuters. "This state interference will downgrade religion."

 

The proposed law comes amid a swirl of controversies around a religion professed by 95 percent of Thais, and with most opposition to army rule neutralised since a 2014 coup.

 

While police have lifted a three-week siege of the giant Dhammakaya temple north of Bangkok, the temple's defiance of attempts to arrest its former abbot in a money laundering case has highlighted the limit of state authority over monks.

 

The draft of the new bill is being reviewed by the Sangha Supreme Council, said the head of the National Office of Buddhism.

No member of the council of elder monks was available for comment.

 

"This bill will benefit monks and help spread Buddhism," said Pongporn Pramsaneh, the recently appointed former detective who now heads the government office that handles Buddhist affairs. He declined to give details about the bill.

 

WANING INFLUENCE

 

There are already indications the Sangha Council's influence has been weakened.

 

Last year, the junta rejected the name put forward by the council to be the new Supreme Patriarch of Buddhism, an abbot who had ties with the Dhammakaya temple and who had been under investigation over a scam involving luxury cars.

 

The military-appointed parliament then granted new King Maha Vajiralongkorn the power to pick a chief monk himself.

 

Pongporn at the Buddhist affairs office said the renewed push on the bill had nothing to do with the Dhammakaya temple, which frustrated an attempt by thousands of police this month to search for its former abbot, Phra Dhammachayo.

 

Critics of the temple say it is sympathetic to the "red shirt" movement of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, which the temple denies.

 

Paiboon Nititawan, a former junta advisor who wants even greater regulation of Buddhism, said if the bill was enacted, "problems like Dhammakaya will be suppressed."

 

"Monks looking to violate monastic codes or wrongly exploit religion will be suppressed," he said.

 

VOW OF OBEDIENCE?

 

Religious scandal is nothing new in Thailand, which has 40,000 temples and more than 300,000 monks. Reports of sex, drugs and improper financial dealings are frequent.

 

The proposed committee under the new bill would set policies to improve secular affairs - though not Buddhist religious practices.

 

That could potentially help the Sangha tackle persistent problems, said Buddhism expert Montree Sirarojananan from Thammasat University in Bangkok. But he said a committee dominated by government officials could also be abused.

 

"A knife in the hands of a military government tends to be used as a weapon," he said.

 

The bill did not include any measures for state control over the finances of temples which, according to a 2014 study, get an estimated $3.5 billion a year in donations, the government source said.

 

The bill would still need approval from the cabinet and the legislative assembly.

 

It would also need to be signed off by King Vajiralongkorn. After appointing a conservative as Supreme Patriarch in February, the king then approved the junta's request to strip the Dhammakaya temple's former abbot of his monastic titles.

 

Aomsin Cheewapruek, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, said the government would enact the bill before the next general election, which is not expected until well into 2018.

 

(Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Bill Tarrant)

 
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-- © Copyright Reuters 2017-03-30
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"Thailand's military government is working on a law to help regulate Buddhism..."

 

And here I thought that Buddhism was "regulated" by the teachings of Buddha, and the paths his followers would take in order to achieve enlightenment.  This is the naive observation one would expect from a foolish, non Buddhist Farang.

 

Will someone please describe Thai Buddhism to me in a few short sentences?

Edited by jaltsc
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2 hours ago, jaltsc said:

"Thailand's military government is working on a law to help regulate Buddhism..."

 

And here I thought that Buddhism was "regulated" by the teachings of Buddha, and the paths his followers would take in order to achieve enlightenment.  This is the naive observation one would expect from a foolish, non Buddhist Farang.

 

Will someone please describe Thai Buddhism to me in a few short sentences?

 

As the article in the OP said "Thailand's military government is working on a law to help regulate Buddhism, officials say, giving the junta far more say over a pillar of Thai society that has so far eluded its control."

 

Whilst Buddhism' for many Thais provides a belief system, a faith if you like, which provides a framework within which they try to live their lives, and as such acts in much the way to Thai society as Christianity has to much of western society; because it has such deep influence over the people the regime see it as vital that it is under their control.

 

As Thais they (the junta) probably are unfamiliar with the risks of skating on very thin ice.

 

2 hours ago, AGareth2 said:

it is all about the money

and control

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The junta government views religion as potentially destabilizing just like they see elected politicians. They done a good job with the constitution limiting the power of elected politicians and now they will do the same with religion with restrictive laws. Control and centralization of power is their aim even post election. 

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"This bill will benefit monks and help spread Buddhism,"

95 % of Thais already are Buddhist.

So who are they planning on spreading it to? They can't seem to control the small % of Muslim extremeists in the south with the army now! If they don't get their shit together pronto, Islam will infect and poison this country, just like it has Malaysia and Indonesia. Nevermind financial corruption amongst monks or politicians, Somchai, the barbarians are already past the gate! Weakening your own religion is just going to help Islam speed up its own agenda. Wake up and smell the coffee.

 

 

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"The bill does not 'support', but forces monks to obey and stay under state governance, which is inappropriate," Phra Metha Winairos, deputy dean of Mahamakut Buddhist University"

Yes, monks should be a law unto themselves and be answerable to no one, they should be allowed to be involved in graft and corruption, have sex, drink, do drugs, be independently wealthy, own cars & helicopters as well as have the latest i phones, brand name accessories etc.  Making them actually follow their religious requirements is laughable, after all, they are above everyone else.......:whistling:

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4 hours ago, Eric Loh said:

The junta government views religion as potentially destabilizing just like they see elected politicians. They done a good job with the constitution limiting the power of elected politicians and now they will do the same with religion with restrictive laws. Control and centralization of power is their aim even post election. 

You don't think something must be done about the excesses in many Wat's?

 

 

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In the U.K. The Queen is the head of the Church of England and has the final say on the appointment of the Archbishop and Bishops.

 

This system works well and could be a model for the future governance and structure of Buddhism in Thailand without  interfering in the practice of the religion.

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49 minutes ago, hansnl said:

You don't think something must be done about the excesses in many Wat's?

 

 

The excesses and shenanigans of monks if criminal can be deal with by the penal code and the justice system. They are not above the law. This new bill is all about controlling the religion and in particular limiting the power of the age old SSC. Someone wants complete control or maybe paranoid of losing control.

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8 minutes ago, Reigntax said:

Will the monks be required to wear medals instead of amulets and train to one day overthrow the government.

 

i believe that some special orange coloured parachutist wings are being introduced.....

 

Just so that the monkhood don't feel left behind by every other branch of the state apparatus here.

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Thailand to me has always been about a country run by buffoons

 

However, today Thailand IMHO has taken a massive jump ahead of many countries as it recognizes a "faith" that needs controlling

 

The quicker the rest of the world catch up and treat religion as nothing more than a hindrance to society, education and progress, will be the time that forward progress can start in earnest.

 

Kudos to Thailand for recognizing and putting faith "religion" in its place, where it belongs!

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20 hours ago, fobuff said:

Yes   this will be the downfall of the illegal junta regime under the great general..

 

Do not fool around with the monks..   you will never  win...

seems the army is limited to what they can fool around with. monks, cops pretty much everything is set the way it is in thailand.

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23 hours ago, webfact said:

Thailand's military government is working on a law to help regulate Buddhism, officials say, giving the junta far more say over a pillar of Thai society

Nothing could be more revealing and honest.

The Thai military has evolved Buddhism since 1932 as another agent (aka "pillar") of the Deep State created by the Thai military but more as a silent surrogate to shape public support for authoritarian regimes. Any waiver of Buddhist leadership towards independence of the current regime must naturally be reversed, ie., more State regulation. 

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So, 3.5 billion USD per year, and about 300,000 monks (Wow! That many?) works out as an average of almost 12,000 USD per monk per year in donations. Does that level of income count as "middle class"?

 

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