Security needed for temples

by WASSANA NANUAM, Bangkok Post, Nov 14, 2005

Bangkok, Thailand -- Anand Panyarachun, chairman of the National Reconciliation Commission, has called on the government to provide protection for Buddhist temples and monks in the deep South. Mr Anand is visiting Buddhist temples in the South to hear grievances from monks and other Buddhists who have been affected by the ongoing violence.

<< Chairman of the National Reconciliation Commission, Anand Panyarachun, right, examines a statue of an ogre in front of the chapel of Wat Phromprasit in Pattani's Panare district yesterday. The statue was vandalised by militants during a raid on the temple on Oct16. — JETJARAS NA RANONG

``The government must provide safety to monks and temples in the three southern most border provinces. Having met with these people, I found they are clearly unhappy and are living in fear due to the violence, particularly the murders of a monk, temple boys and the arson attack on Wat Phromprasit,'' he said.

Mr Anand visited Wat Phromprasit in Pattani's Panare district yesterday. He met with Panare district monastic chief Phrakhru Phinij Samanakarn and Phra Maha Anuchato, the abbot of Wat Phromprasit, as well as speaking to about 100 local Buddhist and listening to their grievances.

Militants raided Wat Phromprasit on Oct 16, setting fire to monks' living quarters and killing an elderly monk and two temple boys. Phrakhru Phinij said the incident was serious because the militants broke into the temple to commit the crimes. The situation was completely different from what took place at Krue Se mosque in Pattani on April 28, 2004, he said.

``At Krue Se mosque, it was Muslim militants who broke inside and held it as a stronghold after attacking a police outpost. Government forces had to take action, resulting in the deaths. But the monks here never had any problems with anyone and one was killed inside his living quarters,'' Phrakhru Phinij said.

He said he did not understand why the government had not been able to solve the unrest in the South, which has now dragged on for two years and become increasingly serious.

Mr Anand told Phrakhru Phinij the NRC is responsible for creating an atmosphere of reconciliation.

``The NRC is not a government agency. We are here to listen to problems in order to make conclusions and recommendations. It depends on the government whether it responds to the advice or not,'' he said.

Following the raid on Wat Phromprasit, only two now reside at the temple, the abbot and 82-year-old Phra Phet, who narrowly cheated death by escaping through a window on the day of the attack. Soldiers were tasked with defending the temple following the attack.

Mr Anand yesterday examined the area where the monk and temple boys were slain, as well as some centuries-old ogre statues, which had been decapitated in the attack.

He said a 20-point proposal made by the Pattani monastic area after the attack on Wat Phromprasit would be reported to the government. One proposal was for the NRC to be dissolved.

On Friday, Mr Anand met and discussed various problems with Phrakhru Udom Thamkhani, the monastic chief of Pattani, and Phrakhru Pipattarasamanakhun, the abbot of Wat Mujalintawapiviharn.

``No one needs to seek the NRC's dissolution. After completing its work, the NRC will be dissolved automatically. However, without the NRC, I'm afraid the people may feel abandoned. While I am already 73, I still feel young at heart,'' Mr Anand said.

Mr Anand stressed that the NRC places a good deal of importance on religion and religious leaders, be they Buddhist or Muslim.