Government denies giving temple purge order
published : 23 Oct 2017 at 04:30
newspaper section: News
writer: Wassana Nanuam
The government did not issue an instruction to Buddhist temples to destroy non-Buddhist sacred objects, including statues or images of Hindu gods, said government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd.
He was responding to reports circulating on social media that the government was behind the removal and destruction of many such items in temples throughout Thailand
One Facebook page posted a video clip of monks at a temple in Nakhon Nayok's Muang district destroying sacred objects, including a statue of a three-headed elephant which had been there for over a decade, drawing criticism that the government had ordered the crackdown on ornaments from other faiths.
Gen Sansern said Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was aware the actions occurring at several temples across the country but had not issued any instructions regarding the matter.
"It isn't true the prime minister ordered it. It is being carried out by the monastic community which has thoroughly examined what items are and are not appropriate," he said.
According to a spokesman, the Sangha Supreme Council (SSC), the monk-governing body, issued a letter to all monastic chiefs nationwide asking them to monitor the use of images of Buddha and other sacred motifs in advertising campaigns to prevent misunderstandings about Buddhism.
"The prime minister stressed that each temple will use its own judgement when removing the statutes or banning the sale of sacred items," Lt Gen Sansern said.
Following the SSC's order, monastic chiefs in Bangkok and the regions sent letters to temples under their supervision with some guidelines.
Bangkok ecclesiastical provincial governor Phra Brahma Dilok sent a letter to all district chiefs asking them to monitor the use of religious imagery and iconography.
The senior monk also pointed out that ubosots should be places where monks practice religious rites and that all district chiefs should inform temples under their jurisdiction not to sell images of Buddha, or any other sacred items, either inside or nearby their ubosots.
Somdet Phra Buddha Chinnawong, chief of the monastic committee in the Central region and member of the SSC, also sent a letter indicating that companies using Buddhist imagery in advertisements were misleading people and must take them down.