Foreign monks rounded up

The Nation, March 18, 2011

Phasi Charoen, Thailand -- Authorities yesterday inspected Talom Temple in Phasi Charoen district following reports that 400 foreign Buddhist monks there go out begging in the afternoon and make money selling the alms.

Immigration and other police and officials of the National Buddhism Office found that many monks from countries such as Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Laos lived in tents set up on temple grounds. A dozen Indian monks and one novice could not produce passports.

Abbot Phra Maha Boontheung Chutintharo claimed that the foreigners possessed certificates for monkshood and had entered the country legally to study Dharma. They did not have the same custom of completing their gathering of alms by 10am, but he had already explained the practice here to them so they wouldn't do it again.

However a monk who asked not to be named said that only 10 per cent of the foreign monks studied Dharma and that he heard that they went out in the afternoon to collect alms, reportedly keeping only the dried food and cash donations and throwing the cooked food away. The monks reportedly sold the dried food to a shop, he said.

One foreign monk told him he was invited to stay at the temple in exchange for paying US$2,000 (Bt60,000) in fees.