Buddhist Fury: Religion and Violence in Southern Thailand

By Michael K. Jerryson | Go to book overview

4
Militarization

In a school at Wat B, a monk in saffron robes sat beside me in a corner of the room where, twenty feet away from us, another monk gave a Pāli lesson to seven novices. We spoke in hushed voices and our conversation was different from most conversations between a person and a monk. I was there to learn more about the issue of military monks. “Why did you decide to be a soldier?”

He explained that this decision was quite typical for a twenty-one-year-old Thai man. We talked about training exercises he went through, the places he stayed, and then paused. In that moment of silence I turned to him and asked: “When you became a military monk (thahān phra), did you have to train more?”

“No,” he replied. “I finished training when I was twenty-two. Then I ordained as a monk. For this position we start as a non-commissioned corporal and work our way up from there.”1 Our conversation continued, but I could not stop thinking about how publicly, yet at the same time covertly, we were discussing the militarization of monks adjacent to an active Pāli classroom. Later, I would consider this perceived ambiguity between secrecy and openness endemic to the discussion of military monks. But, because of this conversation, I realized that a new space for violence had emerged in the Thai sangha.

In chapter 3, Ačhān Nok mentioned that abbots in the red zones owned and sometimes used firearms. These monks used firearms primarily to scare off potential attackers, and they claimed they never planned on using them to harm others. Ačhān Nok explained that the use of firearms by an ordained monk is a misdemeanor under the monastic guidelines, the Vinaya. In this context, the monk who handled the weapon would have engaged in a military action. The same argument applies to the context of Ačhān Wirapan, the monk who advises and blesses the soldiers in Narathiwat and Pattani’s Ingkayut Camp. While Ačhān Wirapan’s practices condone military actions and, hence, can be perceived as militaristic, his social role is still within the domain of a monk. A military monk, however, is quite different from gun-wielding abbots. Military monks retain both monastic and State responsibilities in their everyday performances, constructing for themselves a political identity, which is forbidden according to monastic guidelines. This chapter focuses on the State’s militarization of

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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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