Sharp-tongued and red-shirt-supporting writer and social critic Kham Phaka has decided to take a one-month break from hosting a television programme on Voice TV after her criticisms against Thai mainstream Buddhist practices last month were met with strong, and nasty, reactions from some monks and Buddhist organizations.
She will take a break from the weekend programme starting from this Saturday 14 April and will return on 12 May.
This is because she wants to show responsibility and apologize to the ‘Phra Rattanatrai’ [the Triple Gems of Buddha, Dharma and monks] as well as the Sangha Supreme Council of Thailand and other Buddhist organizations across the country for an offence she made in the programme which was aired on 10 March. Announcing this in her programme on 8 April, she added that the programme will never again encroach upon the Buddhist religion.
In the 10 March programme, Kham Phaka talked about a public campaign to urge youths to download an application to ‘Pray through the New Year’ in a bid to persuade them to abstain from alcohol consumption. The campaign was run by the Sangha Supreme Council of Thailand, the Office of National Buddhism, the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, and some 20 other organizations.
The Pray through to the New Year campaign, originally initiated by the Network of Organizations for Alcohol Abstention under the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, has been running for three years to persuade the public to stop drinking and, instead, go to temples to pray on New Year’s eve, starting from 10pm to 1 am on the first day of the New Year.
The campaign has been well received by government agencies and temples all over the country which, during last New Year, also advertised it as a good deed for the Thai people to make merit for HM the King on the occasion of his 84th birthday.
Kham Phaka criticized the campaign as nonsensical, as it tried to dictate to the Thai people how ‘happiness’ should be defined in their lives, and oversimplified their problems in everyday life with the simple solution of praying.
Government funds in support of this campaign should have been better used to address the public’s real problems, including, for example, improvements in the infrastructure, instead of persuading them to just sit and pray, she said.
‘This campaign to persuade the public to pray is like giving them a tranquillizer so that they will forget the structural problems, and, instead of questioning the real problems, just blindly pray and let the country go on as it is,’ she said.
Buddhism has been in this world for over two thousand years, but the world has existed far longer than that, and humans have lived for tens of thousands of years without Buddhism, she said.
‘The belief that Buddhism is the answer to all questions in the cosmos is the starting point to raise Buddhism over and above other religions. Don’t forget that in this world we have to live with other people who believe in hundred or more other religions. How can the Buddhist 5 basic precepts, which forbid stealing or killing, etc., be more heavenly divine than the 10 commandments of Christianity?,’ she said.
On 14 March, monks and Buddhists from the Buddhism Protection Centre of Thailand petitioned the House Committee on Religion, Arts, and Culture to examine Kham Phaka’s comments on the television programme.
They claimed that the comments were made out of ignorance in the Buddhist Dharma, offensive to the Buddhist teachings, in violation of Sections 37 and 79 of the 2007 Constitution and encroaching upon the royal faith in Buddhism in performing royal ceremonies in Thailand where His Majesty the King is proclaimed as a Buddhist, according to Section 9 of the 2007 Constitution.
Such comments are deemed detrimental to the monarchy and Buddhism in the country, they said.
On the same day, Deputy Secretary General of the Buddhism Protection Centre of Thailand Dr Phra Maha Show Thassaniyo, a red-shirt supporting monk who signed on a petition by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship to seek a royal pardon for Thaksin Shinawatra in 2009, attacked Kham Phaka through an online red-shirt radio programme broadcast by Konthaiuk [Thai people in the UK ] website.
According to Manager/ASTV, Dr Phra Maha Show, who also holds the position of Deputy Director of the Office of Buddhism Promotion and Social Services under the Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University, said in the radio interview that, 'Kham Phaka, nicknamed Khaek, who tried to identify herself as a red shirt, was good at catching on social trends.'
‘She wants to be famous. In the case of Ar Kong [Amphon Tangnoppakul], she stripped herself naked, showing her tits. … She is a northerner. She criticized the religion. This is dangerous. … Teaching morality is useless. Thailand does not have only one religion. Why do we have official holidays to mark Buddhist dates? What’s the use of teaching morality? Oh! This is to destroy Dharma,’ the monk said.
‘If you say that praying is useless, what about the Muslims’ praying 5 times a day? Do you dare to mention this [to the Muslims]? … You would not dare to touch other religions, Kham Phaka. In the case of Ar Kong, you stripped yourself naked to show your tits, which withered and were darkened. Oh! If they were beautiful, they would have been tolerable to the eyes,’ he said.
‘I’d say that Khun Oak and Khum Aim [children of Thaksin Shinawatra, Phanthongtae and Pinthongta] who own the Voice TV station should get rid of this damned programme, so that Buddhists need not stage any protest against them,’ he said.