Thai activist monk should choose between politics and religion: The Nation

Monk Phra Buddha Isara is damaging Thailand's image and the Sangha by getting involved in political shenanigans, The Nation said.
Monk Phra Buddha Isara is damaging Thailand's image and the Sangha by getting involved in political shenanigans, The Nation said.PHOTO: ST FILE

In its editorial on Oct 4, 2015, The Nation says that monk Phra Buddha Isara is damaging Thailand's image and the Sangha by getting involved in political shenanigans.

Several days ago, Phra Buddha Isara led a group of ultra-royalist and pro-coup enthusiasts to the American Embassy in Bangkok to demand that the US government intervene and oust Human Rights Watch (HRW) representative in Thailand, Sunai Phasuk, from the organisation.

He accused Sunai of siding with the enemies of the Thai State and therefore should not be employed by the New York-based HRW.

He said Sunai, one of the most well known human rights activists in Thailand and abroad, is unpatriotic. Sunai has been a leading critic of successive governments on human rights issues.

Hasn't it cross the monk's mind that Sunai's criticisms are also a form of patriotism? Maybe Sunai wants to see some good coming out of his criticism. And by being critical of the authorities over their abusive actions, shouldn't he be credited for doing good for the country's people?

It's really common sense but for Phra Buddha Isara and his morally bankrupt followers, people like Sunai is only allowed to criticise the other side, not their's.

Phra Buddha Isara also added that he felt neglected by the US; he pointed to the fact that American officials from the embassy have met several red-shirt activists but never visited the camp of the now defunct People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), at least when they were on the stage anyway.

The demonstration at the embassy last Thursday was "to explain our stance to them", the monk told the crowd.

Phra Buddha Isara was permitted to enter the embassy compound to meet with some officials.

Whether the Americans were trying to be politically correct or just trying to be nice or wanted to get this nagging protest over with when they permitted him and Rienthong Nanna, leader of the People's Organisation for Royal Thai Monarchy Protection, to enter the compound, we will never know.

But the monk has no qualms about displaying his inflated ego. He told the public that he has invited US Embassy officials to continue their dialogue with him these politically charged issues with him in the future.

Excuse us, but who died and made him an authority of Thailand politics? He may be one of the leaders of a political movement of a group of people who don't have the courage to tell the monk to either stay out or get out of the monkhood and fight the other side like all of them?

For a holy man who is supposed to possess moral authority, Phra Buddha Isara sure doesn't behave like one.

No one knows when he will stop his political shenanigans but the monk is definitely pushing the line to the point that it could be damaging to the country's image and the institution of the Sangha, who, theoretically, should not be involve in politics in the first place.

And just because a holy man in an orange robe wraps himself around the country's flag doesn't mean he has a monopoly on morality or political ideology.

Street protests and intense pressure led by the PDRC helped paved the way for the toppling of the Yingluck Shinawatra government.

Phra Buddha Isara played a prominent role in the movement although the monk likes to credit the masses and cited their support to legitimise his political activities.

Besides being clueless about international norms, the monk can't make the distinction between morality and reason.

In fact, judging from his activities and rationale, he is no different from these colour-coded political leaders. The only thing that separates him from the rest of these leaders is the way he dresses and the fact that he is in the monkhood.

If he wants to lead a political movement and enter Thailand politics, fine. But the monk needs to know that he can't have it both ways - people bowing down to him as if he's leading a prayer and taking him seriously as some political powerhouse.

Buddhism is one of the world's great religions and it's really sad to see how the faith of the vast majority of the people in this country is being exploited for cheap political gain.

* The Nation is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, a grouping of 22 newspapers seeking to promote coverage of Asian affairs.