Thailand: Monks Banned From Department Stores

Bernama, October 30, 2004

BANGKOK, Thailand -- Buddhist monks and novices have been effectively banned from department stores and markets following a huge number of public complaints over their consumerist behaviour, the Thai News Agency (TNA) said in its report filed Saturday.

Although the directive from the Bureau of National Buddhism is officially only a letter of warning, monks will be expected to visit department stores and markets only when "appropriate".

Chularat Boonyakorn, Director of the Office of the Sangha Supreme Council, the highest council for the Buddhist clergy, stressed yesterday that the warning did not represent a ban, but said that her office had received a large number of letters and complaints from the public about monks who frequented shopping centres, particularly those selling CDs and tapes.

"We understand that the intentions of some monks are good. They're just going to look at computers, and they don't have any other intentions. But people perceive them as being crowded out in shopping centres. Both women and men have made complaints", TNA quoted her as saying.

"This is not an iron rule or an outright ban but we have to look at what's appropriate and what will uphold Buddhist morals", she added.

Hinting that monks might be looking at pornographic materials, she cited the case of members of the Buddhist clergy visiting Pantip Plaza, where, she said "several types of CD are on sale".