Stop attacks on bhikkhuni

Stop attacks on bhikkhuni

It is disappointing that police are dragging their feet over the investigation of arson at the monastery in Rayong's Muang district where female Buddhist monks live. Police and other authorities cannot allow this horrendous crime to go unpunished. This is not a case of culture, and does not in any way involve religion. Suspects already have been identified. Any further dragging of feet by security officials would be a clear case of malfeasance.

The background of the crime is also clear. Female monks at the International Women's Meditation Centre have been harassed for some time. In addition to teaching meditation and dhamma, it ordains female monks. This has angered some people. Ignoring the Buddha's teaching of moderation and cool temper, they have sought to arouse hatred in the surrounding community, and have intimidated the women at the centre.

More than two weeks ago, on April 3, one or more people jumped over the centre's fence and set fire to a dormitory. The afternoon blaze spread quickly and burnt everything inside -- beds, furniture, personal belongings and more. For two weeks, police did nothing, despite clear testimony by the centre's residents.

The abbess at the centre is a US national, Bhikkhuni Lee. She has told police, and now this newspaper, what she believes happened, and why. The violence began on March 9, when a group of seven men, possibly drunk, stood outside the centre's gates and yelled threats. They said that because the centre was ordaining women as monks, they intended to burn down the temple in the compound.

Four days later, Bhikkhuni Lee received two consecutive death threats from an anonymous user who connected to her Line account. At night, women in the compound saw men with guns on the roof of the centre's buildings. The next day they found the CCTV equipment was destroyed.

On April 2, a group of 50 Thai women including female monks left for Taiwan. Bhikkhuni Lee arranged the trip as part of awards for those the centre called Outstanding Women in Buddhism. With the main group gone, the US monk believes, men opposed to the centre got enough false courage to invade and set it alight. She calls the men "mafia" and says they have made it clear they intend to harass the centre because of the female ordinations.

The violence at the Rayong centre raises two unacceptable issues. The first is that police did nothing to protect the centre during the sustained campaign of threats and intimidation by known and unknown men. The second is the lackadaisical response to the arson attack. It takes effort for a provincial police force to be as unresponsive as the Rayong authorities have been since March 9, when the possibly drunken men first assaulted the monks and others.

Superior authorities must step in and respond to this violence quickly, professionally and responsibly. As Bhikkhuni Lee said to a reporter last week, this is not just a Rayong problem. It is a national one. Certain male monks have attacked the concept of female ordination, attempting -- too often with success -- to whip up anti-female feelings over the claim that women who seek change and reform must be met with violence.

For police and other security officials including the country's top law enforcement general, no religious test applies. Violence by anyone, for any reason, is illegal and must be prevented, punished or both. Police and all decent citizens must recognise there is no religious justification for these actions. Those stirring up hatred and suggesting or calling for violence against women must be exposed and properly dealt with.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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