Buddhists ready for anti-reform rally

Buddhists ready for anti-reform rally

NRC under fire for backing Paiboon study

Earlier this month, Buddhists around the country performed wian thian ceremonies for Makha Bucha Day. On Tuesday, many of the clergy and lay people will protest plans for change by the National Reform Council. (Photo by  Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Earlier this month, Buddhists around the country performed wian thian ceremonies for Makha Bucha Day. On Tuesday, many of the clergy and lay people will protest plans for change by the National Reform Council. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Several thousand monks and lay people are expected to visit the Royal Plaza Tuesday for a protest against reform proposals set out in a National Reform Council (NRC) report.

The mass gathering has been called by Phra Methithammajarn, vice-rector of Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University and adviser to the Buddhist Association of Thailand (BAT).

The gathering comes after the NRC last week endorsed a report compiled by a now-defunct NRC panel for the protection of Buddhism chaired by Paiboon Nititawan.

The report, which was accepted by a vote of 186-7, contains recommendations for Buddhism reform and is expected to be forwarded by NRC chairman Thienchay Kiranandana to the cabinet soon.

The prayer event — which is described as a ceremony to give moral support to the government in its attempt to protect Buddhism — is a gesture against the NRC's decision to accept the Paiboon report.

Early this month, BAT demanded Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha scrap the Paiboon committee or face a mass gathering by monks and lay people.

Those against the report said they were concerned the NRC panel was destroying Buddhism rather than protecting it.

BAT called off the rally after the Paiboon panel unexpectedly disbanded itself.

The highlights of the reform proposals outlined in the report are: enactment of a law to govern and manage assets held by temples and monks; amendment to the Sangha Act to streamline the Supreme Sangha Council; setting up mechanisms to prevent distortion of Buddha's teachings; and reforms of the education system for monks.

The panel found that assets belonging to temples and monks have never been scrutinised or declared publicly, and that several monks use their positions for personal gain. The panel also found some monks and temples have violated the monks' code of conduct and distorted the core teachings of Buddhism.

The Paiboon committee's report follows the scandal involving Wat Phra Dhammakaya and its controversial abbot Phra Dhammachayo. Some observers believe Wat Phra Dhammakaya and its abbot are the main targets of the NRC's reform campaign.

Meanwhile, a source said the move by BAT should be watched closely because it may trigger a violent religious conflict, posing challenges for a government keen to maintain order.

According to the source, groups of monks and lay people have submitted petitions against the Paiboon panel and are preparing for the protest.

The Paiboon committee's supporters, meanwhile, have created a web page called the National Council for Buddhism Reforms as a tool to campaign for the reforms.

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