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THE CHANGING POLITICS OF THAILAND'S BUDDHIST ORDER

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Abstract:

Thailand's monastic politics are in turmoil. No longer can the sangha be written off as a political force and viewed simply as a fount of legitimacy for the nation and the monarchy. The role played by a few hundred pro-Thaksin “redshirt” monks in the March to May 2010 mass demonstrations testified to growing unease within the rank-and-file monkhood, which is drawn from the same regions and segments of society as the redshirt movement more generally. But beyond these overt displays of dissatisfaction, the sangha faces a range of serious challenges. While long-standing tensions between the rival Thammayut and Mahanikai orders have apparently declined, a dearth of moral and administrative leadership has paralyzed the Thai monkhood and rendered it seemingly incapable of reforming itself. Competing power groups linked to secular politics are vying for influence within the Supreme Sangha Council, while there is no widely supported successor ready to replace the current supreme patriarch, himself nearly a hundred years old. In many respects, the political paralysis of the monkhood mirrors the wider crisis confronting the body politic of the Thai nation itself.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14672715.2012.738544

Publication date: December 1, 2012

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