After attacks, monks in Narathiwat halt alms walks

By By Supitya Rattana, The Nation, February 8, 2011

Narathiwat, Thailand -- In the wake of insurgent attacks targetting Buddhists, monks residing at 13 temples in Narathiwat have stopped their routine morning alms walk for a month, starting today.

The decision has been made by the Sangha Supreme Council and was announced yesterday, at the recommendation of the provincial authorities. Each of the monks at the 13 temples will be given Bt100 in daily meal allowance provided by the Council.

Two monks were attacked in the South in recent months, among victims who were mainly Buddhists, before a large-scale attack last week at a Buddhist community in Pattanai that saw five victims killed and four others wounded.

This is the second time for the monks' morning alms walk to be briefly suspended. The first was in November 2006, when the insurgents murdered several monks on daily duty, but the attacks on them became infrequent after security officials systematically escorted them on the way from and to the temples.

The provincial monastic office said Buddhists may optionally give foods to the monks at the temples during the one-month period, with escorts provides for their trips.

A senior monk - Phra Khru Pariharn Sanghanuwatr - said the practice was necessary for the monks' existence in the region. Even in a small number, they were a symbol of Buddhism and "a spiritual sanctum for all Buddhists amidst violence."

Phra Khru Paphassorn Sirikul, the abbot of Wat Khao Kong, said the alms for his temple stopped since January 31, with food now provided mainly by soldiers on guard duty, and from visiting Buddhists.

Phra Khru Panya Prayuth, the abbot of Wat Ras Samosorn, where there are only four resident monks, said the alms walks stopped or continued depending on a case-by-case basis.

"When the monks go out taking alms, they are escorted heavily all the way from and back to the temple. It is not a good sight, but there is no better way to solve the problem," he added.