Monks suffering as strict distancing rules remain

Monks suffering as strict distancing rules remain

Monks in 40,000 temples nationwide have been adversely affected by the government's Covid-19 lockdown according to Tewan Liptapallop, a spokesman for the Prime Minister's Office.

He said more than 300,000 monks have been prevented from receiving alms each morning since early April when the government issued its emergency decree to ban activities bringing people into close physical contact to avoid transmission of the novel coronavirus.

Mr Tewan said monks, especially those from temples located in Muslim areas in southern provinces, have not had access to food.

He said the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) will survey the needs of these temples. The NOB will then ask the government to provide more assistance to monks next week.

So far, the government through the NOB has only provided an extra 2,000 baht each to a few hundred monks at temples in the restive southern provinces.

The deep South is vulnerable as there is a relatively higher number of infections and the insurgency has erupted again since the end of last month.

Despite the government easing lockdown measures on some businesses and public spaces, the ban on Buddhist religious gatherings at temples and offering alms to monks remains in place, said Mr Tewan, without offering any clues as to when the ban on religious activities would be lifted.

During Visaka Bucha Day yesterday, a national holiday to mark Buddha's birth, enlightenment and passing, temples across the nation still banned public gatherings. Usually, Buddhists visit temples that day to observe a triple clockwise circumambulation.

However, temples across the nation, acting on the advice of the NOB and Supreme Patriarch, offered online events instead.

Major temples such as Wat Bowon Niwet in Bangkok offered online religious events to prevent people coming to temples. Mr Tewan said most Buddhist activities will be conducted this way, even if the outcome is quieter temples and no immediate solution to the problem of hungry monks.

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