Shouldn’t allow the few bad monks to despoil such beauty.
COMPERE: Phone sex, real sex, dressing up in military uniforms, rape, murder and being murdered. These are just some of the scandals that Thailand’s Buddhist Monks have been embroiled in recently.
South East Asia correspondent, Geoff Thompson, reports.
GEOFF THOMPSON: Spirits are high at the Tar Chang Temple near Bangkok. It’s the end of the rainy season and time for the Monks to receive new robes from the community. People are dancing and faces are smiling, and if one didn’t know better one may believe all was well in this Buddhist community.
But there was a dark secret here that recently became very public indeed. This Temple’s Abbot was caught by local TV cameras sneaking out to late night trysts with women in breach of his vows of celibacy.
In the morning, Abbot Oneshy Unsap, emerged not as a Monk but meticulously disguised in the full regalia of an Army Colonel, before driving off in a shiny black Mercedes. All that was too much for Thailand’s police. The Abbot was roughly arrested and now faces five years in jail. Abbot Oneshy was still wearing his Monk’s robes under the military uniform because, he says, inside he is still a Monk.
The Abbot’s Deputy at the Tah Chang Temple, Isfang Mutavow [phonetic].
Nowadays, he says, some Senior Monks are not disciplined so the monastic institution is declining. In the past Monks followed the rules, but now men’s minds are weak. Some Monks go to prostitutes, he says, drink alcohol and take drugs. It didn’t happen in the past, but now they don’t follow the rules.
Professor Chatsuman Kappel Singh [phonetic] is a Buddhism scholar at Bangkok’s Tamisat University.
CHATSUMAN KAPPEL SINGH: You will not forget that the Monks are also part of the larger population. When the larger population is being swept away by materialism and consumerism, the Monks who are not well practised, not [inaudible] in the Buddhist teaching, can also get swept away by materialism and by consumerism which is the strong characteristic of the modern age.
GEOFF THOMPSON: It’s been a particularly rough trough for Thailand’s Monks recently. Apart from Abbot Oneshy’s scandal, other Monks have been exposed for donning wigs and attending karaoke bars. Another Deputy Abbot was recorded engaging in phone sex with women. One has been accused of rape, another has been charged with drug dealing – another still with killing a woman and dumping her in a septic tank.
Professor Kappel Singh says the very existence of a Monkhood known here as the Sangha is under threat.
CHATSUMAN KAPPEL SINGH: They say themselves they are Monks but they are not practising but they are doing something else then the lay people will lose respect – will lose respect. And if the Monks are not aware of this, they are going to become the rare specie that is going to be extinct. The Sangha and the Cabinet of the Supreme [inaudible] need to set this, priorities it as one of the most important issue that they need to meet.
GEOFF THOMPSON: But back at Tar Chang Temple the disgraced Abbot still has his defenders.
This woman says she has served as the Temple’s cook for 10 years. The Abbot had some good points, she says. Though he had affairs with women, it’s his own business. He didn’t have sex in the Monastery, she says, and we can’t be fully confident he had sex in other places. If he really did, they should have filmed it, then I would believe.
Professor Kappel Singh believes the mixture of Monk’s mischief and modern media means the bad deeds of a few bring down the reputation of the Sangha as a whole that is causing a crisis of faith for some believers.
CHATSUMAN KAPPEL SINGH: The majority of them are very unhappy. The majority of them – some of them would go to the extent of saying that oh now I may lose faith in the Monks because you cannot question which one is what. You know, some of them might go to that extent.
GEOFF THOMPSON: But for now, at least, the numbers are on the side of the Monks. Thailand has 300,000 Monks. Only 200 a year are declared guilty of breaking their vows.
This is Geoff Thompson is Bangkok for PM.