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Buddhadharma : Fall 2015
40 buDDhaDharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 1 5 A Rohingya Muslim man pleads for entry into Bangladesh after fleeing Burma Military monks in the three southern provinces of Thailand are like guardians that protect Buddhism from deterioration. If there are no soldiers to help take care of the wat [temple], the wat will become deserted and untended. We are here to protect the religion, encourage the people, and raise the morale of local Thais. This nation can survive because there is religion... If there is no Buddhism to teach and guide the people, we will become a nation of chaos filled with selfish people. He and many other Buddhists in the region believe that military monks are essential to protecting Bud- dhism in southern Thailand, and that if Muslims drive the Buddhists out of southern Thailand, order and morality will be pushed out as well. Burma: Pushing the Rohingya Muslims Out The recent violence in Burma began in 2012, when the western Burmese state called Rakhine saw widespread Buddhist riots and violence against the Rohingya Muslims. Tensions in the state had risen shootings, and public beheadings by insurgents, yet during the last eleven years, no group has claimed responsibility for the violence or issued political requests. In response, the Thai government has militarized Buddhist temples, authorized clandestine military monks, and enforced brutal counterinsur- gent directives and interrogation techniques (often- times on Buddhist temple grounds). These actions have only worsened Buddhist–Muslim relations. Buddhist military monks (tahanphra) are soldiers who are selected during training to covertly operate as both monks and soldiers. After they undergo a full ordination ceremony, military monks perform the typical duties of a monk but are armed and receive a monthly salary from the military. Military monks see their work as imperative to the survival of Buddhism in southern Thailand and the legacy of the Buddhist kingdom of Langkasuka. At one Buddhist temple in the conflict zone, I met a military monk who pulled back his saffron robes to show me his Smith & Wesson. When I asked him why military monks exist, he replied: ©apphoto/anuruptitu©apphoto/gemunuamarasinghe