Thursday, March 15, 2007

Deconstructing Sanitsuda Ekachai: Thai Clergy Forced to Stay Mum on Thai Politics


The clergy is playing it safe, as expected

Bangkok Post

Sanitsuda Ekachai

When you don't know who will be the eventual winner in a political battle, it is wiser to play safe. This is why the clergy has cautioned monks nationwide to avoid politics in their sermons. The spokesperson of the Ecclesiastical Council announced early this week that all monks should follow the same line by avoiding politics and sticking to what is the safest issue at the moment: royal advice on the sufficiency economy.

In addition, the council is planning to revamp the monastic curriculum on public speaking so that monks avoid touching upon all divisive issues.

The clergy may argue that they are only trying to preserve social harmony. But the naked truth is they are only trying to preserve their status quo in a time of political uncertainty.

The clergy's no-politics injunction does not come as a surprise. It has always been their policy to side with the government in power. This is why the no-politics rule for the clergy simply means no criticism of the state authorities, which is undeniably a political act no matter how you look at it.

Only the most naive will believe that the monastic society is apolitical. Like society at large, the clergy is not only rife with power struggles but is also divided into pro- and anti-Thaksin camps.

A recent sermon by a pro-Thaksin monk, therefore, caused a big embarrassment to the clerical authorities, whose main policy is to appease the powers-that-be. They thus needed to show the present government that they are doing something to prevent the same thing from happening again. Hence this no-politics rule regarding monks' sermons.


Good article


Patiwat said...

That's strange... during the oppressive Thaksin government, monks could say anything they wanted and not have to fear persecution or lawsuits. Even Luang Ta Maha Bua got away with calling Thaksin ยักษ์วงผีวงเปรตวงมาร and a monster that was swallowing up the country, torching the monarchy, and planning on replacing the monarchy with a presidency.

Yet our enlightened royally-mandated military government now orders the clergy to shut their mouths? I can't imagine a greater blow to royalist/junta-nut-hugging hypocrisy.

hobby said...

Fonzi: I cannot see much wrong with the Bangkok Post piece. Sanitsuda's articles usually have something sensible to say - she is my favorite Thai columnist/editor by far.

patiwat: Could the Ecclesiastical Council have a mind of it's own in this matter, and not necessarily have been ordered by the government?

Fonzi said...


I agree with the article, which is why I didn't write anything.

I also supported her article from last week also.

Patiwat said...

The Ecclesiastical Council never has a mind of its own. Read the writings of Sor Sivaraksa and Paul Handley for examples of how factionalized they are.