Police and monks meet halfway

Police have agreed to reposition barricades outside Wat Benchamabopit after monks at the temple complained that Internal Security Act (ISA) measures were preventing daily almsgiving activities.

The temple is located Bangkok's Dusit district where the ISA is being enforced to cope with anti-government rallies.

As part of heightened security measures, concrete barriers and barbed wire have been placed around the holy building, known among tourists as the marble temple.

Policemen and tents can be seen along Si Ayutthaya and Nakhon Pathom roads next to the temple, while some officers are using the temple compound as a place to rest.

Phra Maha Apichart Punnachantho last week posted a message on Facebook complaining that police barriers were impeding monks from receiving alms.

Phra Thepkittiweethee, deputy abbot of the temple, told the Bangkok Post that monks were suffering as a result of the tight security measures, since the barricades prevent them from going out to receive food offerings.

"I've already negotiated with the police and they've agreed to slightly move the barricades to make way for monks to collect alms and allow Buddhist laymen and tourists to enter the temple more conveniently," he said. "If not, we'll have to climb over the barricades."

The temple currently houses about 200 people, of which 109 are monks and novices.

The deputy abbot said police told him that they cannot lessen security further because of anti-government rallies in the area.

"Due to the security measures, we are collecting less alms and the number of Buddhists coming to make merit and tourists visiting the temple is decreasing," he said.

Despite this, Phra Thepkittiweethee said Buddhists who were aware of the issue had been coming to offer food at the temple, while the temple kitchen has been continuing to provide two meals a day for monks at a cost of 5,000 baht. He denied that some monks have been forced to cook for themselves, as had been claimed.

But the deputy abbot warned that the temple's problems with the ISA extended beyond almsgiving activities.

He said some police officers had been using areas within the temple compound to sit down or take a nap and were littering and even smoking inside. This is improper for a religious site and looks untidy to tourists, he said.

"Please do not forget that temples are a tourist attraction. People travel so far and pay a lot to come to Thailand including this temple."

"I want to prohibit police from parts of the temple where monks are performing religious ceremonies because it is an area for tourists to go sightseeing and for monks to do religious ceremonies. Instead, police should stay within the monk's living quarters," he said.

On Tuesday, no officers were reported inside parts of the temple compound used for religious ceremonies. 

Phra Thepkittiweethee said the police had listened to the monks' problems, which are gradually being solved through negotiations.

Related search: Wat Benchamabopit, Internal Security Act, ISA, almsgiving, monks, alms, protest, temple, Marble Temple

About the author

Writer: Lamphai Intathep
Position: Reporter