The drama surrounding two popular monks and their live-streaming talk show laced with political messages and giggling has been settled.
The monks appeared before a House committee on Thursday, explained themselves and agreed to tone down their funny dhamma show, with less giggling and more straight talk.
Phra Maha Sompong Talaputto and Phra Maha Praiwan Worawano testified before the House committee on religion, art and culture over their show, which went live on Facebook over the weekend.
Panel chairman Suchart Usaha said after the meeting that the two monks gave clear explanations of all issues raised by the committee. The meeting was held in an amicable atmosphere, he added.
Mr Suchart said the monks could do a lot of good with their live show. The suitability of the content was for senior monks to decide. The panel had no authority to decide what was right or wrong, suitable or not.
What it could do was exchange information, the House panel chairman said.
Representatives from the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) were also satisfied with the monks’ explanation and all issues raised were cleared, Mr Suchart said.
Phra Maha Sompong Talaputto and Phra Maha Praiwan Worawano went live on Facebook over the weekend and their followers were treated to a dose of comical exchanges between the two monks, who poked fun at current affairs and politics.
The talk show, peppered with teenage slang, was an instant hit. At one point, the session logged a whopping 200,000 viewers. However, Buddhist authorities did not find the session amusing.
Phra Maha Sompong said there were three issues raised during the meeting with the House panel.
The positive side of live-streaming sessions was that it was up-to-date. As for the negative side, he was willing to correct it.
The panel advised that words must be carefully chosen, the monk said.
During the meeting, it was agreed that dhamma talk should make up 70% of the content, and giggling only 30%.
Phra Maha Sompong said he had negotiated with the panel so that the content and comical exchanges could remain at the same 50% at the beginning of the show, to draw an audience.
As for advertisements that supported the show, it was agreed that ads or products could be displayed, but no mention made of them during their talk. The products must be suitable for a show about Buddhism.
Phra Maha Praiwan thanked the panel for listening to his views. He promised to take note of what the panel advised, to improve the show.
Mr Suchart said live-streaming of dhamma teaching was something new and drew hundreds of thousands of followers. The agreement made at Thursday's meeting would set a precedent.
Responding to the remark by Paiboon Nititawan of the ruling Palang Pracharat party that the two monks should leave the monkhood and take up acting, Mr Suchart said this matter had been patched up during the meeting.
On Monday, NOB deputy director Sipboworn Kaewngam said his office was compiling details of the show to present to the monks' governing order for investigation. The order would have the final say on whether there should be any punitive action against the two monks.
Activist Sriwuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Thai Constitution, said he had complained to the NOB and the Supreme Sangha Council about what he termed the 'shameless' action of the monks in trivialising dhamma through jokes.