BANGKOK (AFP) - Misbehaving monks face censure after Thai religious authorities said they had launched a 24-hour hotline for the public to report unruly acts by Buddhist monks.
The move follows a cascade of high-profile scandals ranging from reports of monks taking drugs and drinking, to a case in May of five defrocked abbots charged with sexually abusing boys.
The National Office of Buddhism (NOB) said the idea for a hotline emerged after Thailand's coup-making General Prayut Chan-O-Cha expressed concern over the image of Buddhism, a religion that counts an estimated 95 per cent of its 67 million population as devotees.
"We have already set up a hotline to receive complaints from people if they see anything that endangers our religion," the office's Napparat Benjawattananant told AFP on Wednesday.
"People can file a complaint if they see monks are involved in irreligious things. For example if they see fake monks collecting donations," he added.
The office said there are around 270,000 monks across the country, which counts religion as one of its key pillars.
"We don't have enough staff to check every monk so we need to mobilise the general public," he said, adding officials will take action immediately after receiving complaints.
A slew of scandals involving monks has tarnished the clergy's image in recent months.
Last September, authorities seized nearly US$800,000 (S$1 million) worth of assets, including a Porsche and a Mercedes-Benz, from a monk who was defrocked for a controversial trip in a private jet and who was also accused of fathering a child by an underage girl a decade earlier.
"There have been a lot of cases regarding bad behaviour related to monks, so we just want to fix this problem," said Thai junta spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak.