As we have said several times, PPT has no particular insights on the confrontation that has involved thousands of police and soldiers intent on raiding and searching Wat Dhammakaya. We have posted a couple of times on why this case and is apparently so central for the junta and the broad yellow shirt movement (here, here, here and here).
As we write, it is reported that the temple remains surrounded by several thousand police and soldiers operating under The Dictator’s use of Article 44.
These troops, behind barricades, are supplied with shields, helmets and batons. No one may enter the temple. Those who wish to leave are let out. Data communications to the temple have been cut to prevent those in the temple using social media. This was meant to be a “secret.”
Those in charge of the temple have made an “announcement for followers inside to be prepared” for action by the authorities.
In fact, in the lead-up to the current (renewed) stand-off, there have been several clashes. Even so, while the idea of troops clashing with monks and their supporters seems have caused some concern among the junta, it remains firm on pressing forward. Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan vowed that the search for the temple’s former abbot at the temple compound “will continue no matter how many more weeks or even if a year passes. Authorities are trying to avoid violent confrontations. But it is necessary to continue to enforce the law…”.
Odd alliances are claimed and seen. A Wat Dhammakaya supporter called Aye Phetthong “called on the government to revoke the order which he said has an adverse impact on the country’s image.” He’s also reported as saying that “key figures” from the “yellow-shirt and red-shirt groups” had “entered the grounds of [the] Wat … to ‘protect Buddhism’.” Meanwhile, a fascist and ultra-nationalist monk in Myanmar has offered support to the besieged temple.
Another report, by Reuters, offers some analysis – if that is possible of this situation – and seems to agree with one of PPT’s earlier suggestions, that the military regime and its supporters are intent on protecting the “religion” part of the nationalist-royalist trilogy of Nation, Religion and Monarchy.
The report quotes another with fascist leanings who is close to the junta, Paiboon Nititawan, who declares: “It [the sect] is trying to create unrest and subverting state power…”. That does seem far-fetched, but the political heat is now turned to full and yellow shirts like Paiboon have a history of political fanaticism.
Reuters reminds us of the timeline on these events:
The showdown for control began last year when the Sangha recommended a candidate for Supreme Patriarch with links to Dhammakaya and was under investigation over taxes on a vintage car.
The junta rejected that candidate. Then, when the new king took the throne in December, the law was changed to let him choose a patriarch and ignore the Sangha’s wishes.
Four days after a new patriarch, chosen from Thai Buddhism’s more austere fraternity, was installed the junta declared emergency powers over Dhammakaya.
The junta risks an unraveling of its rule not just on a Buddhist sect, but on several front, mostly because it is treading on the toes of the middle class, its natural (for Thailand) support base. Environmentalists, Buddhists who see themselves as devout, anti-corruption campaigners and similar types are getting the junta runaround and are seeing the hard edge of the regime directed at them. That signals a rising but reluctant opposition to the military’s authoritarianism.