It looks as though Major General Chamlong Srimuang is up to his old tricks again. This delightful photo is courtesy of the Bangkok Post’s Monday May 31st, 2010 online edition. Their caption reads:
While monks and activists staged a dhamma peace march past the burnt-out CentralWorld, parliament prepared to meet, with MPs bitterly divided over whether to screen video and photographs taken during the mayhem. (Photo by Kosol Nakachol)
I find it interesting and contemptible that the Post does not mention who these monks really are. These are clearly Sonti Asoke monks who follow Major General Chamlong Srimuang, a key PAD leader. Since 2007 Santi Asoke monks have dressed in brown robes because the Supreme Council of the Sangha will not allow them to wear the traditional saffron robes.
Santi Asoke is a very controversial sect of Thai Buddhism. It is a far-right and ultra-conservative group. They were founded by Phra Phothirak (Bodhirak), a former Thai rock star. The Supreme Council of the Sangha decided, during the Chatichai administration, to defrock Phra Phothirak. He conveniently dodged the defrocking by changing from saffron robes to white robes and no longer called himself a “monk”.
Some will say that Santi Asoke are socially engaged Buddhists, who walk a strict moral and ethical path. Others condemn them as an outlaw sect that drags Thai Buddhism into the political realm where it doesn’t belong. Major General Chamlong Srimuang has called them his “Dharma Army”. This is quite a militaristic name for a group that promotes peace and harmony.
This is the link to the site that I checked to compare the garments prior to posting. The monk to the left is wearing the same type of robe that Santi Asoke monks wear. Go to the link and you will see it is a story about a man who visits a Santi Asoke temple.
Footwear issue, taken from – http://www.warren-wilson.edu/~religion/thailand/asoke_different.shtml
Footwear Most of us walk barefoot, yet some prefer not to, and others must wear sandals for health reason. Monks, novices, and aspirants must walk barefoot except for health or safety reasons. Neither the Buddha nor the monks and nuns practicing with him wore footwear. It’s unnecessary and there are good reason to walk barefoot. Going without is part of our frugal lifestyle, we massage our feet with each step (consider this to be incidental Foot Reflexology!), and we strengthen our resistance to disease this way. Plus, most shoes and many sandals are made for fashion,and are incompatible with following the seventh precept.
And some sexist remarks regarding women.
Female Novices Only in Asoke are women allowed to ordain in Thailand. They have been ordained by Asoke monks and follow ten precepts just like male novices, so they are called female novices. For various reasons the number of female novices is kept low. In general women have more defilements, so need more supervision than men. This ensures that only those who are really serious about the practice can ordain. There are many more women in Asoke than men and if all who want to ordain are allowed to, the discipline in the Sangha (order of monks and novices) will deteriorate. Buddhism will degenerate. The Buddha was very reluctant to ordain women and refused to do so for about twenty years. Like it or not, these are teachings of the Buddha. As of December, 2002 the ratio of female novices stood at about one to four. But now that there are over one hundred monks, one woman can ordain for every three men who ordain.
I am big enough to admit when I am wrong. I was wrong about the “collapsible truncheons and batons”. I still stand by the Santi Asoke label of these monks. I checked their wardrobe against another site and had a Thai Buddhist look at the photo prior to posting. The militaristic label is also accurate as Chamlong has said in previous statements that he has trained his monks how to physically fight and that he will raise an army to defend Thailand. Also, this is a political gathering. During an emergency decree no more than 5 people are allowed to form a group. Clearly, this is another example of double standards.