CRITICISM OF PM
Monk slams temple raid
Published on Jun 12, 2004
'Shameless' taunt over Liverpool bid brings wrath of religious officials
Cultural and religious officials raided an outspoken monk's compound on June 3, soon after he slammed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as "shameless" in reference to the latter's plan to raise money from a lottery to buy Liverpool FC.
The monk told The Nation yesterday that the government was abusing its power by attempting to silence critics.
Phra Kittisak Kittisobhano, 42, from the Sekhiyadhamma Group, was not at his Mettadhamma Park in Chiang Mai's Fang district when a group of officials searched his room and compound last week. But he said he was not surprised when a junior monk informed him by telephone of the uninvited guests.
"It must be related to my opinion presented at Chula [Chula-longkorn University] two days earlier," said the monk, who has a reputation for making vocal criticisms of the government in the public arena.
Speaking up for society
The Sekhiyadhamma Group, of which Kittisak Kittisobhano Bhikku is the current chair, may not be well known to outsiders, but it is a well-respected Buddhist group in contemporary Thai society. The group, which has about 850 members with another 300 monks throughout the Kingdom, seeks to understand and tackle social issues related to the environment, health, democracy and liberty through Buddhist philosophy.
Venerable Kittisak and other members call themselves engaged Buddhists, which implies that they do not think Buddhism should be kept inside a temple compound, but applied in daily life as a solution to social problems. The group was formed in 1990 with outspoken social critic and Buddhist scholar Sulak Sivaraksa as its main inspiration.
The group holds six public symposiums each year and publishes a quarterly journal. It has among its membership well-known monks such as scholar-monk Phra Paisal Wisalo, Phra Sri Pariyatmolee and vice rector of Maha Chulalongkorn Buddhist University and controversial female monk Dhammanandha Bhikkuni.
Sekhiyadhamma is a small but growing network of grass-roots monks and nuns struggling to integrate the study and practice of buddhadharma with a philosophy of social responsibility for communities.
During a round table at the university on the first of June, Phra Kittasak criticised the prime minister's plan to effectively raise state funds via gambling. On the following day, at another symposium, he said: "Thaksinocrazy is truly crazy."
"I said it was awful to legalise underground business. I also mentioned that previous leaders might have considered this possibility . . . but no one would have gone through with such a plan because they would have been ashamed of committing sin [hiri otappa]. But Thaksin is shameless", he said.
State officials searched Phra Kittasak's compound last year as well, after he led a peace meditation during the Apec summit to urge visiting US President George W Bush to end the occupation and war in Iraq.
That time he received a mysterious phone call asking him not to join the campaign and was questioned by officials about his background. However, he said: "It is a duty of monks to create peace."
His place was raided one more time before the latest intrusion. Phra Kittisak still receives calls from state officials who identify themselves only as employees of Government House.
The undercurrent of intimidation has only made him more critical of the government.
"I think the government is abusing its power. Instead of using it for social justice it is employing it to maintain the status quo. This is dangerous policy, not just for those who criticise Thaksin but for society at large," he said.
So far no one has directly threatened the monk's safety.
"It might be because I am still polite and answer every question I am asked. But the kinds of question being asked grow more serious with each new call", he added.