Buddhist Fury: Religion and Violence in Southern Thailand

By Michael K. Jerryson | Go to book overview

3
Practice

When I first met Ačhān Nok at Wat A, I asked him, “What are the monks’ duties during the violence in the southern border provinces?” He replied simply, “Monks should have guns to protect themselves.”1 Prolonged exposure to a violent environment had changed Ačhān Nok, a forty-two-year-old Buddhist abbot of the small wat in a red zone. During the several years I lived and worked with different Buddhist abbots in Thailand’s southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat, I discovered that Ačhān Nok’s opinions mirrored that of many other abbots in the region. Most abbots in the red zones wanted or owned handguns. While his fears and desires are understandable, Ačhān Nok’s request to arm monks clashes with the most general notions about Theravāda Buddhism. Thai Buddhists consider monks above the worldly matters of warfare and violence. Thais might view monks and war as antithetical entities; however, this reflection ignores a legacy of Thai monks who have fought in wars.2

Southern monks engage in practices that adversely affect the violence, such as conducting sermons that openly encouraged Buddhists to distrust their Muslim neighbors. Their fears influence their sermons and rituals, and in turn these performances intensify religious animosities and distrust between Buddhists and Muslims.3 On these occasions it is not simply what monks do, but how they do it.4 The purpose of such an examination is to widen our typical definitions of political power and identity to expose the applications of symbolic power present within society. As such, in this chapter we will examine the impact fear has on southern monastic practices. Due to persistent levels of trauma, monastic practices change and lead to monks exacerbating the violence in the southernmost provinces, specifically through their views, speeches, and actions.


Practice and Performativity

Performance is not located solely on a theater stage; it occurs all around us. People perform their identities through their dress, speech, and gestures. Just as scholars like Judith Butler demonstrate that race and gender are performative

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Buddhist Fury: Religion and Violence in Southern Thailand
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures and Tables vii
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - Histories 28
  • 2 - Representation 50
  • 3 - Practice 82
  • 4 - Militarization 114
  • 5 - Identity 143
  • Conclusion 178
  • Appendix 187
  • Notes 189
  • Bibliography 233
  • Index 249
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