Monks barred from rallies

Monks barred from rallies

A monk reacts during an anti-government protest in Bangkok on Oct 16, 2020. (Reuters photo)
A monk reacts during an anti-government protest in Bangkok on Oct 16, 2020. (Reuters photo)

The National Office of Buddhism (NOB) has issued an order barring monks and novices from joining mass protests, its director Narong Songarom said. Monks who flout the ban could be defrocked.

The NOB and the Sangha Supreme Council of Thailand have previously notified the heads of the monks' governing branches across the country to make sure that monks and novices do not engage in politics or political activities, Mr Narong said.

His comments were in response to media reports and photos taken of individuals in saffron robes who participated in anti-government rallies. They joined the protests despite repeated warnings from the NOB. A group of them were pictured holding placards demanding the right to vote, as monks are barred from voting.

Others were reportedly questioning why they must obey the rule which requires them to shave their eyebrows. They were part of a protest on Nov 8 in Bangkok.

"The rules clearly say that monks must have their eyebrows shaved regularly. If they cannot accept the rule, they should leave the monkhood. No one forces anyone to be ordained." said Mr Narong.

Somdet Phra Bhuddajarn, abbot of Wat Trai Mit Witthayaram who supervises the enforcement of monastic discipline, has been assigned by the NOB to come up with guidelines to prevent monks from rallying.

Monks and novice protesters will face punishment that could lead to expulsion from the monkhood, according to the NOB's latest resolution. Government agencies have been asked to check on protesters in saffron robes to see if they are genuine or fake monks, the director added. So far, one monk has been confirmed to have joined the mass protests.

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