By Ann Norman
Even in Thailand, where over 90% of the population is Buddhist, it would be a mistake to go around assuming that everyone is Buddhist. There are also Muslims, Christians, and Atheists (of both the Buddhist and non-Buddhist variety). The Thai Alliance includes Buddhists, Christians, and Atheists. We all get along united by humanist values, and the guidelines for our choices as an organization are listed in the UN Universal Declaration of Human. One of these values is Freedom of Religion:
Article 18: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
No ruling group should be imposing its preferred religion on all the other groups, or announcing what is and isn’t blasphemy. No religion or religious group should be persecuted.
Pai Daodin seems to be a Buddhist. His father has posted a picture of him, head shaved wearing orange robes, sitting cross-legged on top of a mountain. It is traditional, for Thai young men to be ordained as a monk for a short period before going back to their normal lives. Pai’s father also posted a picture of Pai bowing at the feet of his teacher at the temple Wat Pong Chang, the same temple where he was ordained. At the moment he was arrested, for sharing a mainstream news article on Facebook, he also happened to be at this temple participating in a “dhammayatra activity,” which is a pilgrimage in accordance with the Buddhist principles of right mindfulness, right intention, right speech, and right action. In the Facebook Live video he posted as he was being arrested, we see that Pai is stunned to learn he is being accused of lese majesty just for sharing a BBC news article on Facebook, yet he is polite to the arresting offers, and his last words as they take him away are “This is the atmosphere” and his camera scans across a quiet scene outdoors with many orange-robed monks in the distance under trees. It seemed like a plea: “Why are you bothering me when I have done nothing wrong and am just practicing my religion?”
I only know about Buddhism from the example and explanation of my friends who are Buddhists, but I gather it is about moderation, tolerance, acceptance of impermanence, and a personal journey to find enlightenment in which a person should test everything they are told. A quick google search finds that “Five precepts, or ‘guides’, are often given as advice as to actions that will often most lead to beneficial outcomes. They are: not to lie, steal or defraud, kill or injure others, hurt via sexual relationships, and to not further cloud your mind with too many intoxicants.”
If this is what Buddhism is about, King Vajiralongkorn, a hedonistic, multi-billionare, sadistic, playboy, who lives like a mafia boss, in every sense of the word, is not a very good Buddhist. He appears to be a serial offender of most, if not all, of the five precepts. (If you think I am exaggerating just look at his biography. You can begin HERE with the English version of the article Pai shared.) And yet King Vajiralongkorn is a Buddhist by definition because Section 7 of the new Thai Constitution (written by the junta) clearly states:
“The King is a Buddhist and Upholder of religions.”