Malaysian temple to get Thai royal award

The New Straits Times, Nov 10, 2008

KOTA BARU, Malayia -- Wat Pikulthong in Tumpat is set to be the first Buddhist temple in Malaysia to be honoured with the prestigious Royal Kathin award from Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The award, comprising the royal Kathin robes and RM50,000 in donations, will be presented to the temple by Thailand's former Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Tej Bunnag during a two-day ceremony beginning tomorrow.

Thai Consul-General Surapon Petch-Vra said yesterday that the award, which was part of the Buddhist merit-making ritual, was the first to be conferred on a Malaysian Buddhist temple.

It is usually given to ordained monks at Buddhist temples throughout Thailand and abroad.

Petch-Vra said Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat and Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed were expected to attend the ceremony.

"This is a significant ceremony and it reflects the close and long-standing relationship between Thailand and Kelantan.

"The participation of high-level officials from Kelantan in the ceremony signifies the tolerance adopted by the state and the Malaysian government towards the many faiths and religions.

"We expect around 10,000 people from Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore at the ceremony as this will be followed by the Loy Krathong festival on Wednesday evening."

He said the ceremony was held at the end of the Buddhist Lent period or after the three-month rainy season retreat. Thai Buddhists believe that the Kathin ceremony is the most noteworthy form of merit-making apart from the ordination of a close kin.

"This tradition has long been a part of Thai culture. Once in a lifetime, Thai Buddhists look forward to an opportunity to sponsor or at least take part in the annual Kathin ceremony to redeem merit for themselves," explained Petch-Vra.

To be eligible, the chosen temple must have at least five monks in residence and only those residing during the entire Buddhist Lent period are entitled to receive the royal robes and donations.

The word "Kathin" literally means the "embroidered frame" used in the sewing of the yellow robes.

In the old days, making the robe involved a long and arduous process as the fabric comprised rags collected from dead bodies since cloth was in short supply then and had to be handwoven from cotton.