Thailand's to consider bill on offences to Buddhism

by MANOP THIP-OSOD, The Bangkok Post, Oct 24, 2007

Would also officially recognise nuns' status

Bangkok, Thailand -- The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) will today consider a bill that will introduce harsh punishments for various forms of offences against Buddhism, including sexual affairs with monks, novices and nuns and, for the first time, officially recognise the status of nuns. The bill was proposed by a group of 179 NLA members, some of whom tried in vain to promote Buddhism as the national religion in the 2007 Constitution.

They reasoned that although Buddhism is the religion of most Thai people, there has been no law to protect and promote the religion seriously and cover Buddhist people in general.

There is only a law to govern the organisation of Buddhist monks, who altogether account for only 0.5% of all Buddhists in the country.

The bill sets a jail term of 10-25 years and/or a fine of 500,000-1,000,000 baht for insulting, offending, imitating and distorting Buddhism and the Lord Buddha and a jail term of 5-10 years and/or a fine of 100,000-500,000 baht for damaging Buddhist objects, personnel and places.People who have any form of sexual affair with monks, novices and nuns are liable to five to 10 years in jail and/or a fine of 100,000-500,000 baht. However, the bill does not include any punishments for monks, novices and nuns who engage in sexual relations.

NLA member Patara Khumpitak said this point could be addressed during the bill's scrutiny process.

Punishment for physically assaulting monks, novices and nuns would be three times those stipulated by law.

The bill also accepts the status of nuns as Buddhist priestesses for the first time on the condition they must be ordained by an abbot or a person authorised by an abbot.

Any house of nuns will be under the jurisdiction of a temple, an abbot or a Buddhist juristic entity. The bill also requires the state to support the development of Buddhist nuns.

The bill calls for the formation of a government panel to promote and protect Buddhism. The prime minister will be chairman of the committee and the panel will include a senior monk, a Buddhist expert, a representative of Buddhist juristic entities and permanent secretaries of various ministries and the PM's Office