Angry Buddhist monks in Thailand clash with soldiers at rally
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Angry Buddhist monks in Thailand clash with soldiers at rally

HUNDREDS of angry Buddhist monks clashed with Thai soldiers at a Monday rally. Scenes at the rally were remarkable considering the ban imposed by Thailand’s ruling junta on political gatherings.

Several dozen troops tried unsuccessfully to block a few hundred monks from a gathering outside Bangkok where the monks were rallying to demand that the government immediately appoint 90-year-old Somdet Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn, or Somdet Chuang, to lead the Buddhist hierarchy in Thailand as Supreme Patriarch.

Here’s a video showing the confrontation between the monks and the soldiers.

And in this video, the monks are shown rocking a military vehicle.

At present, Somdet Chuang – the monks’ preferred candidate – is the acting Supreme Patriarch and chairs the Sangha Supreme Council (SSC). The monks believe authorities have been delaying his permanent appointment to the top religious post.

Critics accuse the senior monk of being linked to corruption involving a tax evasion scheme, but politics is also linked to the controversy.

Phra Ratchamangalacharn has ties with the Dhammakaya sect, which is associated with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, toppled by a military coup in 2006.

Critics of the senior monk overlap to a large extent with Thaksin’s critics.

The monks at yesterday’s rally intended to attend a seminar titled “Block the plot to overthrow the Sangha’s administration”.

In addition to their demand for Somdet Chuang’s appointment, the monks also wanted Buddhism to be enshrined as the official state religion in the new constitution.

They further demanded that the government refrain from interfering in monastic affairs, reported the Bangkok Post.

The monks dispersed in the evening after their representative, Phra Methee Dhammacharn, met with Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press