Thailand to check monks' bad habits with 'smart ID cards'

July 14, 2017

Thailand's Buddhist monks could soon be issued "smart ID cards" flagging any drug or criminal records, in the latest move by the junta to restore the tarnished image of the men in orange robes.

The kingdom has around 300,000 monks, who are held in high regard as keepers of the national religion.

But in recent months the clergy has been plagued by a series of high-profile scandals ranging from sex and drugs to murders taking place at temples.

The junta, which took power in 2014, wants to reorganise Thai Buddhism with misbehaving monks first in their crosshairs.

"Monks across the country already hold the paper-based cards but the information is out-of-date, which makes it hard to verify their background," Ormsin Chivapruck, an official at the Office of the Prime Minister, told reporters on Thursday.

Digitalised smart cards would enable up-to-date tracking with the monk's monastic history recorded alongside any or report of drug use, he added.

The move is "to prevent fake monks using religion, or suspected wrong-doers from hiding their illegal acts behind orange robes," he added.

Details will be discussed next week at a meeting of the Supreme Sangha Council, the body governing the national faith.

But rollout of may be complicated as all Thai men are expected by social convention to ordain for at least a few weeks.

Critics say the rigid hierarchy of the Supreme Sangha Council makes it unable to counter corruption or embrace change.

The government has already forced more than 46,000 temples to submit their financial accounts, amid claims of widespread irregularities.

The most famous monk scandal played out earlier this year as troops searched the temple of the mega-rich Dhammakaya sect on the outskirts of Bangkok, to arrest the controversial former abbot who is accused of money-laundering.

The abbot remains at large.

Explore further: Dispute flares over controversial Thai temple tigers

Related Stories

Literary sleuths find genuine author

March 29, 2013

A little-known Thai woman is the real author of an important Buddhist treatise – not the high-profile monk previously credited, according to new findings.

Digital library of ancient Thai manuscripts

April 5, 2016

The University of Pennsylvania and the National Library of Laos have launched the Digital Library of Northern Thai Manuscripts bringing thousands of ancient manuscripts out of monastic temples and making them available as ...

Recommended for you

Earwigs and the art of origami

March 22, 2018

ETH Zurich researchers have developed multifunctional origami structures, which they then fabricated into 4-D printed objects. The design principle mimics the structure of an earwig's wing.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.