The temple as hostage

From Thairath, December 21, 2016
Title: Holding temple’s wall and gates as hostage [meaning the police have closed off the wat entrances in an attempt to apprehend the temple’s abbot]
On the official notice sign: Stolen property under the crime no. 2283/2559. Don’t use, don’t move or doing anything which may cause a loss, damage. If someone violates, he can be charged. Klong Luang police station [This is a police notice to alert people that the temple is under technical seize of the police due to the siege to arrest the temple’s Abbott.]
On the wall: Hundreds of cases; Spreading rumors about Dhammakaya [the cartoonist means that the authorities have wrongly filed many legal cases and spread rumors about the sect]
Phi Nooring: Good people will not do something like this.
A mouse: Monks and novices are in trouble.

[This is an rare cartoon from the Thai-language media that openly supports the Dhammakaya sect in its standoff with the authorities. Most of the media have long ridiculed the eccentric beliefs and behavior of the sect and mocked the police for being unable to arrest its fugitive abbot. He is barricaded in the main Dhammakaya compound with his followers acting as human shields to prevent his arrest.

As Thailand’s economy took off in the 1980s and 1990s, newly affluent Thais were pulled between the traditional (and cultural) Buddhist definition of peace (the rejection of the world and self) and the newly gained financial ability to participate in the decadence of the world. Thus, Dhammakaya sect’s philosophy of buying merit and creating a nirvana-like state inside one’s own self while still being able to partake in luxuries of the world has a special lure for Thailand’s rich and powerful.

The Dhammakaya movement has long been allied with Thaksin and his attempts to undermine Thailand’s existing conservative Buddhist hierarchy. Since Thaksin was deposed it was feared (and billboards put up at strategic times seem to confirm this) that Dhammakaya monks would be recruited to protect the marching Red Shirts in Bangkok.

After the 2014 coup, the junta moved aggressively against the sect. It purged the mainstream Buddhist power structure of Dhammakaya allies and shifted the appointment of the Supreme Patriarch to the King to prevent a Dhammakaya-friendly monk from assuming the post.

Unfortunately for Dhammakaya, Thaksin and the Red Shirts have been entirely focused on making sure elections take place as soon as possible, so, aside from a few expressions of support in Red Shirt circles, there has been no move to mobilize mass action to support the sect. Any activity would provide a pretext for the military to delay future polls.]

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