Red Shirts have been widely criticising the role of Luang Pu Buddha Isara who is Sutep’s pet fascist monk. This monk behaved as a thug, leading supporters to block the Lak-see polling station where Sutep’s gang brought in gunmen to attack those who wanted to vote. He claims that he is a “moral protector” and therefore he has to get rid of the Prime Minister because her family is corrupt. This is laughable. Sutep has a history of corruption but this monk chose not to say anything.
At the moment lots of people are complaining about Buddha Isara’s role, especially after the Lak-see events. The National office of Buddhism said that they did not have the power to expel Buddha Isara from monkhood. However, they did send a letter to the Buddhist organisation in Nakorn Patom. These Buddhist governing bodies will not allow women to be monks, but accept fascists.
Right-wing monks have a long record of intervening in Thai politics on the side of brutality. None of them are charged for their criminal acts. Kitti-Vutto encouraged his supporters to use violence against the Left. His most infamous words in 1976 were that “killing communists is not immoral; it is a good thing because you save the nation, religion and the king”. These words resulted in violence at Thammasart University that year.
“Syndromes and a Century” is a Thai film. It was produced in 2006 but banned because there is a scene in the film where a monk plays a guitar! Such behaviour is deemed “unacceptable” according to elite Buddhist principles. No doubt it would be OK if a monk made a Nazi salute.
Religion is one of the convenient political tools for the Thai elites. It has been used regularly to divert people from paying attention to government failures or injustice that prevails in society. The Thai State imposes the rule that at all schools in the morning, students have to sing the National Anthem and chant Buddhist prayers. Even some Muslim students were also forced to do so. Every week, Thai students have to attend moral classes.
Scandals about Thai monks have never gone away from newspaper headlines. Some of them make money out of their disciples and have a lavish lifestyle. Some have a collection of expensive cars or even private planes. Buddhism and its mainstream institutions are very conservative, reactionary and out of touch with reality.
The Buddhist institutions need to be reformed urgently. The first step should be to announce that religion should be a personal thing. Religious ceremonies should not be funded by the state. Religion should not play any role in secular problems such as abortion rights. Monks should be involved in politics as individuals, but the monks who commit criminal acts must be charged with abusing peoples’ rights.