Thai Buddhist monk fights on even as anti-government protesters scale back
A young Thai man and woman are on their knees, their palms pressed in supplication to the saffron-robed Buddhist monk, an anti-government protest leader, looming before them.
Accused of being pro-government spies they have been brought before the monk at a protest site in north of Bangkok by burly guards donning tinted sunglasses.
A 15-minute interrogation fails to convince the monk, Luang Pu Buddha Issara, of their innocence and he orders protest guards to keep them under close watch before striding on stage to tell supporters to fight against the “black-hearted” government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The monk’s role in political protests that have gripped Thailand – a predominantly Buddhist country – for months, has divided Thais as much as the protest itself.
He faces disciplinary action by the National Office of Buddhism, the organisation in charge of overseeing monks’ behaviour, for inappropriate conduct while the Buddhist Association of Thailand has threatened to disrobe him.
That doesn’t seem to faze the 58-year-old senior monk. Last month he led protesters to block polling stations ahead of a February 2 election, giving orders to followers during violent clashes between pro and anti-government groups at a Bangkok intersection that left at least six people injured.