07/24/2010, 00.00
THAILAND
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Tribal members in northern Thailand join Buddhist temples to help their communities

by Weena Kowitwanij
About 245 members of tribal communities join the Srisoda and Wiwakwanaram temples. Most of them cannot read or write the Thai language, or even speak it. During the three-month novitiate, they will study health practices and hygiene. Ordinations are a way to help tribal groups. For Wallop Ploytabtim, undersecretary of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, this is a way the government is helping tribal people.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – About 245 members from different tribal communities inhabiting the mountain regions of northern Thailand have been ordained as Buddhist novices on 18 July. These communities have different cultural and religious practices; few of their members know how to read or write, or even speak the Thai language. The date was chosen because it marks the anniversary of the death of the Princess Mother, Somdet Phra Srinagarindra Boromarajajonani, who passed away on 18 July 1995 at the age of 94.

After the ordinations, organised by the Buddhist Mission for Remote People, the novices will spend the three months of Buddhist Lent in the Srisoda and Wiwakwanaram temples in Chieng Mai province, a time of seasonal rains and spiritual renewal.

Ordaining young novices is a way to improve the quality of life of tribal peoples. Since 1971, the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security has supported the Buddhist Mission in its efforts to train new monks and bring improvements to the remotest areas of the country so that society as a whole can be more stable and peaceful.

For Phra Thepkosol, administration office director of the Buddhist Mission Project at Srisoda, “The hill tribe inhabitants will have an opportunity to become monks and study Dharma, which is the doctrine and the Law of the Buddha. It is a way to sustain Buddhism.”

Wallop Ploytabtim, undersecretary of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, said that the government is helping the mountain residents of about 20 provinces. At the end of Lent, those who want to continue on their path towards becoming monks will travel to tribal hill villages. Those who wish to leave will have had a useful experience for their daily life, which will help them earn a living for their families. In either case, tribal communities will benefit.”

In fact, during such three-month periods, novices learn about public health and hygiene, herbal remedies and how to set up health centres. They also learn the Thai language.

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