Junta set to add further authoritarian controls to Buddhism

Giles Ji Ungpakorn

Like all military small-minded despots, General Prayut craves to control and bring authoritarian order to all sections of society. As he busily crafts anti-reforms to destroy parliamentary democracy and as he turns the clock back to the bad old days with the education system, he is now turning his attention to religion.

The junta announced that they would tighten up rules for monks and set up a register of all those currently in yellow robes.

“Model temples” are to be set up as examples of how religion should be administered. One such temple springs to mind immediately. It would be the temple where the acting Supreme Patriarch, head of the Buddhist order of monks resides. Somdet Pramaha Rachamungkalajarn given his religious support to the military junta and General Prayut.

Buddha Issara with his anti-democratic thugs
Buddha Issara with his anti-democratic thugs

The reactionary Buddhist monk “Buddha Issara” (seen here and with Prayut in main picture) would be another example of a fine model. He worked closely with mobster Sutep Tuaksuban during the violent anti-government protests which destroyed the February election and helped to usher in the coup.

Previous Cold War era military dictatorships set out to control the “Song” clergy in order to make sure they were loyal supporters of the status quo and gave sermons against radicalism and ideas about justice, equality and democracy. Under these rules Thai Buddhist monks were told to be non-political. This can be understood in the context of the radical politics of many Buddhist monks in Burma, Lao and Vietnam who were close to the poor.

As a Marxist and an atheist I believe that there should be a complete separation between religion and the state. Religion should be a matter of personal free choice without restrictions on how people practice their religion.

Prayut has blood on his hands from the brutal suppression of the red shirts in 2010. Yet he claims to be able to set moral standards for Thai citizens.