Monk & disorderly: Thai Buddhists get strict on adherents after financial, sex scandals

Monk & disorderly: Thai Buddhists get strict on adherents after financial, sex scandals
Thailand’s Buddhist monks have reportedly been told to adhere to tighter discipline, and been banned from collecting donations or selling holy objects at temples. The crackdown comes amid temple scandals over sex and money laundering.

The monks have been instructed to follow new rules, designed to make temples’ financial records more transparent, according to Reuters, which saw the written orders.

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Senior monks will also watch out for “inappropriate use of social media” by monks. Adherents in a group of temples in the northeast region were also instructed to report misbehaving fellows.

“Please take care of any monks who are not practicing discipline,” Reuters cited the rule, issued in September.

Although these regulations have existed before, “their implementation may have been lax,” according to Phra Phrom Moli, a member of the Sangha Supreme Council, the governing body of the Buddhist clergy.

“We must examine ourselves, listen to the people and see what is and is not appropriate for the sake of the public's faith in the religion,” Phra Phrom Moli said.

The strict measures were introduced starting from September, according to Reuters. These are apparently aimed at cleaning up the tainted image of Thailand’s dominant religion, which has more than 300,000 monks and around 40,000 temples.

The clergy has been tarnished by a series of high-profile scandals over rape, drugs and embezzlement allegations, with the ruling junta trying to reorganize Thai Buddhism. In summer, the government came up with the idea of smart ID cards for monks – which would allow the verification of their background and tracking of any drug or criminal offences – instead of paper documents. 

The news comes as Thailand is set for the funeral ceremony of the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej next week, as well as the coronation of his son, King Maha Vajiralongkorn.