The supreme sangha council, Thailand’s Buddhist governing body, has ordered monks not to participate in the months-long protests against Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and to restrain the power of King Maha Vajiralongkorn. The council has resolutions in the making to prohibit monks from any involvement in political matters and expressing opinions on, for example, the king.
More than 90 percent of Thai are Buddhists and this religion is traditionally seen as one of the pillars of Thai society, together the monarchy. While there has been no widespread participation of monks in protests, some have joined a 1,000-strong army of protesters in their monk robes.
The protesters are pushing for the removal of Prayuth, a former junta leader who held power after last year’s controversial elections. They also want a new constitution and a reduction in the power of the monarchy, which they say allowed decades of military domination. Under Prayuth’s junta, the king was given the power to appoint Thailand’s chief monk to lead the Sangha, even if the council had chosen a different candidate.
Thai monks are not allowed to vote and were in principle already excluded from politics. They have never played such a big part in Thai politics as the monks who helped push Burma (Myanmar) towards democratic reforms more than a decade ago.