Murder, Monk Fraud Undermine Trust in Thai Buddhism

Murder, Monk Fraud Undermine Trust in Thai Buddhism

Not a week seems to go by without a Buddhist monk in Thailand being found to have committed a crime. On August 16 of this year, news came, reported almost casually in a national newspaper, that a Buddhist monk (41) had just shot and killed an elderly man (67) with a shotgun. The murder took place at a meditation retreat led by the monk in Phitsanulok. The victim owned land adjacent to the meditation room and was allegedly involved in a long-running argument with the monk.

Gun violence is the order of the day in Thailand, where illegal firearms abound. However, when the killer is a monk, the crime is a torment especially for Thai Buddhists. Monks are generally regarded in the Buddhist land as paragons of virtuous conduct according to the strict ethical teachings established by the Buddha.

Yet many saffron-clad clerics are clearly not. Numerous clerics have been found guilty of serious crimes in recent years, including a single murder. Last year, the 59-year-old abbot of a monastery in the northeastern province of Buriram was arrested after killing a pregnant woman with a machete. The abbot had had an affair with the woman, who threatened to make the relationship public unless he gave her money, police said. The monk decided to silence the woman by killing her. There are also examples of monks who enriched themselves extremely and flew around the world in their own planes.

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