Radical monk shuts down Facebook account at authorities’ request

A radical Buddhist monk who proposed that the government burn a mosque for each Buddhist monk killed in the restive Deep South has temporarily shut down his Facebook account at the request of the Thai authorities after many campaigned against his ideas.

Venerable Aphichat Promjan, chief lecturer monk at Benjamabophit Temple, a Bangkok temple under royal patronage, on Wednesday morning, 4 November 2015, posted a Facebook message that he was asked by the Thai authorities and Maha Thera Samakom, the Sangha Supreme Council, to stop posting radical statements on Facebook.

“In the last two days, I received notifications from Maha Thera Samakom and was visited by state officials and security officers, who requested me to be careful in expressing opinions about the deaths of Buddhist monks and laymen in the Deep South at the hands of the ‘Malayu bandits’,” wrote Aphichat.

The monk said that he will do what the authorities requested for the time being and will temporarily shut down his Facebook account, starting from Thursday 12 am.

He added “When Buddhist people call me back, I shall return.”

Last Thursday, Aphichat posted on Facebook the suggestion that state authorities should take radical measures to quell the violence in the Deep South.

His statement says “If a [Buddhist] monk in the three southern border provinces dies from an explosion or being shot at the hands of the ‘Malayu bandits’, a mosque should be burned, starting from the northern part of Thailand southwards.”

Although many people posted comments and Facebook stickers in support of the monk, many also posted comments against it with the hashtag ‘#resist Wirathu model’, comparing Aphichat to Ashin Wirathu, the well-known head of a radical anti-Muslim and nationalistic Buddhist group in Myanmar.

Aphichat has been active in a movement to make Buddhism the state religion of Thailand, campaigning through groups such as the Committee to Promote Buddhism as a State Religion.

The overwhelming majority of Thai people are Buddhists, but Thailand is a secular state despite the fact that no other religion in Thailand enjoys support from the state in a manner similar to Buddhism.

Although many Buddhist monks and laypersons view favourably the move to enshrine Buddhism as a state religion, many criticise the move for potentially stirring up anti-Muslim sentiment in the country, especially as Thailand is still locked in a protracted armed conflict between the state and Muslim insurgent groups in the Deep South border region.