Channeling Luangta Maha Bua, sort of | 10.10.05

Beginning her op-ed titled “Dare the prime minister sue a Monk”, Sanitsuda Ekachai crows:

In the realm of image-making, reality does not count all that much. Perception does. That is why Thaksin Shinawatra’s image makers must have a big headache right now.

Apparently the realm of image-making she’s talking about is Thai journalism. Reality doesn’t matter as long as PM Thaksin’s getting pummeled.

This time around, the pummeling is being administered by Pra Dharma Visuthimongkol (พระธรรมวิสุทธิมงคล), also popularly known as Luangta Maha Bua (หลวงตามหาบัว). I know little about him, but according to Khun Sanitsuda, he is “believed to be a saint”. By whom, she doesn’t say. Not Catholics, obviously, and most likely not by Thai Buddhists, either. An arhat is not a saint, and a bodhisattva, though perhaps comparable to a saint, is mostly a Mahayana concept. In any case, I’ve never heard any suggestions that Luangta Maha Bua is either of those things.

Anyhow, the monk is obviously a good guy since, as Khun Sanitsuda reports, he has landed “a far more serious accusation” against the PM than even that of the pompous firebrand Sondhi Limthongkul. Much like Khun Sondhi, the monk has recognized his past bad karma of supporting Thaksin and is now expiating it by renouncing and denouncing the anti-Buddha. Great, we’re all for giving people a second chance. Especially a chance to lambaste Thaksin.

Trouble is, Khun Sanitsuda never told her readers what the monk’s allegation against the PM is. She went into great detail about how they fell out, which we certainly hope is more factual than the “believed to be a saint” bit. But when it comes to the actual charge, what I quoted in the previous paragraph is all she would let on.

Fortunately, we don’t have to rely on Khun Sanitsuda for information. We individuals with IQ over 85, that is. Manager Online, incidentally an outfit founded and run by the aforementioned Khun Sondhi, has a full transcript of the sermon in question. A choice excerpt:

เขาฟ้องร้องมา นายกฯทักษิณ กับนายวิษณุ และกับอีกสองคนเราจำไม่ได้ นี้คือตัวยักษ์ใหญ่ ตัวอำนาจใหญ่ อำนาจป่าๆ เถื่อนๆ จะกินบ้านกินเมืองกัดตับกัดปอด มุ่งใส่ประธานาธิบดี ว่างั้นนะ เราเอาธรรมจับเข้าไป ประธานาธิบดี หรืออย่างไร เกิดมาไม่เคยมีประธานาธิบดี เมืองไทยเราครอบครองกันมาด้วยความสงบร่มเย็น เราอยากถามว่าอย่างนั้น เข้าใจไหม นี่ละมันจะเอาไฟเผาบ้านเผาเมืองเวลานี้ มันไม่ยอมฟังเสียงเลยนะ ยึดอำนาจบาตรหลวงไปทุกซอกทุกมุม วงราชการต่างๆ เจ้าอำนาจบาตรหลวงป่าๆ เถื่อนๆ นี้เข้าไปยึดอำนาจๆ ไว้หมดในวงราชการ ตีออกไปหาตำรวจ ทหาร ให้เป็นเจ้าอำนาจๆ มาบีบบังคับคนทั้งชาติ

They complained to me about PM Thaksin and [Deputy PM] Mr. Visanu and two other people that I don’t remember. This is the big ogre, big power. Atrocious power will swallow our country, bite liver and lungs and aims for presidency. So they say. I apply dharma. Is he a president? Never been a president since I was born. We have occupied Thailand with peace and quiet. I want to ask that. Understand? This will put a torch to the country. It will never listen. [It] will seize power to [from] every corner. The bureaucratic circles, the power will seize all the power in the bureaucratic circles. Expand to the police and the military to be power lords. Power to impose on all the people in the country.

[Translated by yours truly]

Well, at least now I know where Thirayuth Boonmi learned his elegant prose.

A note about the “president” reference. Thailand has no office of presidency. The king is the head of state and the prime minister, the head of government. A president, naturally, would replace the king — an unthinkable affront to the Thais’ reverence for the monarchy. An accusation of a presidential ambition is thus the ultimate character assassination (a term Khun Sanitsuda herself curiously employed in the article). You know you’re a big shot when they accuse you of it. These days, though, the smear doesn’t seem to work quite as well as one might wish or fear. But, hey, the anti-Thaksin brigade will try anything.

And that, by the way, is just a subtle teaser. Here the luangta makes explicit what he means:

นี่เราทราบมาเต็มหูเต็มตาเต็มใจของเรานะที่เรามาพูดนี่น่ะ มันออกทุกแง่ทุกมุมเลย ป่าๆ เถื่อนๆ นี่น่ะ มีตั้งแต่สิ่งที่จะเผาเป็นฟืนเป็นไฟ มุ่งหน้าต่อประธานาธิบดีชัดเจนแล้วเดี๋ยวนี้ พระมหากษัตริย์เหยียบลง ศาสนาเหยียบลง ชาติเหยียบลง ด้วยอำนาจป่าๆ เถื่อนๆ ในคนไม่กี่คนในวงรัฐบาล นั้นละวงยักษ์วงผีวงเปรตวงมารอยู่ในนั้นหมด

And this I know from all my ears, all my eyes, and all my heart. This thing that I say. It appears in every aspect. This savagery and atrocity. From the things that will burn into raging fire… [he] clearly aims for presidency now. The monarch trampled, the religion trampled, the country trampled, by this savage and atrocious power in a few people in the government circle. That is the circle of ogres, of ghosts, of trolls, of demons, all in there.

And then some:

นี่ละพระเทวทัตท่านก็ยังเห็นภัย แล้วท่านได้สนองคุณแห่งความดีของตัวเอง จะได้เป็นพระปัจเจกพุทธเจ้า ไอ้เราที่ความผิดความพลาดถ้าเห็นโทษมันก็ผ่านไปได้ ชะล้างกันไปได้ นี้เป็นอย่างไรในเมืองไทยเราปกครองกันแบบไหน ยังจะหาว่าแต่หลวงตาบัวนี้มาเล่นการบ้านการเมือง การบ้านการเมืองขี้หมาอะไร มีแต่มูตรแต่คูถเต็มบ้านเต็มเมือง เราเอาธรรมะพระพุทธเจ้ามาชะมาล้างให้รู้เนื้อรู้ตัว รู้ผิดรู้ถูก ในฐานะที่ว่าเราเป็นถึงรัฐบาล พวกนี้โลกเขายกยอให้ว่าเป็นคนฉลาด แต่อย่าฉลาดลงส้วมลงถาน อย่าฉลาดเอาไฟมาเผาหัวคนทั้งประเทศ ตั้งแต่ชาติ ศาสนา พระมหากษัตริย์ลงมา พวกนี้จะเอาไฟเผาถ้าไม่ยอมรับความจริง เราจึงสลดสังเวชนะเรื่องเหล่านี้ ทำไมถึงเป็นอย่างนั้น

So even Devadatta saw evil, and he was rewarded for his good deed. He would attain Buddhahood. That we made mistakes will pass, will wash away if we see evil [in them]. But what is it with Thailand? What kind of governance? [They] even dare to accuse Luangta Maha Bua of playing politics. Politics, my ass. [Literal translation: Politics, dog’s shit.] There’s only feces all over the country. I brought Buddha’s dharma to cleanse in order for them to repent and recognize good and evil. Because they’re the government. The world flatters them as smart people, but don’t be smart down the toilet. Don’t be smart about putting a torch to the head of everyone in the country, from Nation, Religion, and Monarchy on down. These guys will get burned unless they recognize the truth. I’m saddened by all this. How does this come about?

The monk had gone on at length about Devadatta. So you see my earlier mention of the “anti-Buddha” wasn’t an exaggeration. What did Khun Sanitsuda say in her previous column? Oh, yes, “Dissent is blasted as unpatriotic.”. What did Richard Hermes say in his hagiographic portrait of Anand Panyarachun? “Choose your era and you’ll find an epithet.” Good news, guys, Luangta has offered up an impressive display of abuses here. Why not pick a couple and throw them right back at the Thaksinites?

Too bad, even a total twit like Sanitsuda Ekachai probably knew that channeling this loony invective would do no good to her credibility, not to mention her prose. So she changed the issue to one of “perception” instead, as evident at the beginning of her article and also here at the end:

Whether the allegations against Mr Thaksin are true or not has become secondary to the question: why are so many people willing to believe them?

If Mr Thaksin cannot answer this question and look at himself honestly in the mirror, his image problem will continue to dip further as public perception increasingly turns against him.

Yes, just like whether or not the US experts who “insist” Suvarnabhumi’s runways crack even exist is secondary why the Bangkok Post is willing to publish the story. Somehow it’s always someone else’s fault, and that someone else these days is usually the prime minister.

As a Thaksin supporter, I of course don’t want him to have a bad image, let alone a worsening one. It’s remarkable, though, that not only the “public perception” is whatever the media makes it out to be, but so is its validity. A foolproof rule: anti-Thaksin good, pro-Thaksin bad.

Still, in the remote chance that a Bangkok Post editor’s perception of the public perception bears any relation with the reality, I’ll answer Khun Sanitsuda’s question on the premier’s behalf:

  1. Stupidity.
  2. Blinding hatred.
  3. Stupid and blindingly-hateful and unscrupulous journalists like to fan such baseless attacks.
  4. “So many people” actually have never heard of those political melodramas, much less believe them, for they have the enviable wisdom and good taste to prefer watching and reading primetime TV soaps.

Now that she has my answers, Khun Sanitsuda can look at herself in the mirror and — heaven willing — decide to get a new hairdo. Perception matters, you know!

12:17 ▪ politics, media

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1
post staffer 11.10.05

I don’t think she’s on the same wavelength, Tom. I have never dared have a conversation with her…far too scary.

Actually, I can count on one hand the number of times I have even seen her in the office. Such hard workers, they are over there … obviously too busy hatching anti-Thaksin plots.

People who write hateful, spiteful columns have obviously not been taking enough happy pills. If the truly embittered were to go out and see a charming movie such as เพื่อนสนิท, for example, would it make a difference?

We can but hope.

2
Tom Vamvanij 11.10.05

Post Staffer:

Such hard workers, they are over there … obviously too busy hatching anti-Thaksin plots.

Hey, that sounds sarcastic! I know, I know, you didn’t mean it to be. But you yourself must know that they’re too dumb for that.

With a handful of exceptions such as Ekayuth Anchanbutr, anti-Thaksinism isn’t a conspiracy, it’s a mass hysteria.

3
post staffer 12.10.05

You ever read Jay Mann (Thirisant Mann) in the Bangkok Post? He’s not too keen on Thaksin, either. But at least he does it with style.

4
Tom Vamvanij 12.10.05

Unfortunately, I have and find him even more insufferable. Sanitsuda is woolly and nutty, but at least she’s got a point to make. Thirisant just wants to be cute.

He fails at that, too, of course. Referring to Thaksin every single time as the “man from the North who calls himself South” isn’t cute, it’s annoying. And that’s just the most tiresome of his numerous buffooneries.

A Maureen Dowd wannabe who comes up well short, that’s what Thirisant is.

5
post staffer 12.10.05

I admire your independent mind, Tom. If I were Thaksin, I wonder if I would have bothered suing the Manager for running such rubbish.

Thaksin runs the risk of lending credibility to what is clearly just a rant…little different from the rants that appear under Sanitsuda’s name, for example, though hers are wrapped in caring, concerned language which would have readers believe she is taking a more objective, detached view (when of course that is not the case).

You are right, Sanitsuda’s focus on ”public perception” allows her to avoid risking her own credibility by quoting the monk’s invective, and also spares the newspaper from the risk of being sued.

But it also weakens her column. So the monk has levelled more serious accusations than Sondhi? Who says?

We are not given the chance to judge. In the absence of any detail, Sanitsuda’s column comes across as paternalistic and shallow. She supports the team vociferously from the sidelines, but it too timid to get out and join the maul (my first ever sports analogy, Tom).

The reader finds himself asking just who are these people in whose eyes Thaksin’s image is supposedly suffering (and does it matter)?

Critics like Sanitsuda would have us believe they are all around us, and if they are not, it’s because Thaksin’s populist policies have bought ”the people” off. To which there only be one response:

It’s your bully pulpit, my dear…prove it.

6
post staffer 12.10.05

More of the monk:

“มหาบัว” สงสัยทำไม “แม้ว” ไม่ฟ้อง ยันพร้อมรับผิดชอบคดี “เทวทัต”

http://www.mthai.com/webboard/5/153549.html

7
JW 12.10.05

If I were Thaksin, I wonder if I would have bothered suing the Manager for running such rubbish…Thaksin runs the risk of lending credibility to what is clearly just a rant

While I have stated previously here, I think alot of the criticism of Thaksin is unjustified. I think that the defamation law that Thaksin (Ok, Shin Corp) is using against Supinya Klangnarong (I don’t know to much about Sonthi’s case) is an abomination and I hope it is struck down by the Constitutional Court as been unconstitutional. It disappoints me that Thaksin is using the law against Supinya or anyone else.

For political speech, I am strongly opposed to criminalising speech, which is what s328 of the Criminal Code does. IMHO, a civilsed society should not criminalise speech in such circumstances.

On Luangta Maha Bua, I have long been concerned by the involvement of monks in politics. Stanley Tambiah has written a few books and articles on the use of religion in the political sphere in Thailand and you should read some of what he has written.

My problem with monks becoming invovled in politics is that frequently invoke the Nation, Religion, and Monarchy term in their speech and because of their status, they are virtually immune from criticism. For reasons of free speech, they should not invoke their status when speaking as the people they are criticising have no possible right of reply.

8
post staffer 17.10.05

I hate this kind of ”journalism”. Faceless, and gutless…and not just because of the defamation laws, I suspect.

ผู้ปกครองประเทศขาดสติจริงหรือ?

link

9
tarin 19.05.06

‘saint’ is the sometimes-used translation for the pali ‘ariya’ – a person who has eridicated at least the first three of the basic fetters of their mind and experienced ‘nibbana’, the supreme state of theravadan buddhism. divided into four classes of attainment, an ‘arahant/arhat’ is the term used for someone who has attained the last one (the classes are successive) by eliminating all the fetters of their mind and experiencing almost all of ‘nibbana’ (short only of ‘paranibbana’, which is guaranteed to happen at physical death) . however, any of these four attainments is considered by buddhists to be a big achievement and luangta maha bua is popularly rumoured to have attained one or another of them (as is commonly rumoured about many bigshot monk leaders).