Smart ID card for Buddhist monks

The government measure is due to the high number of ethical and legal abuses involving monks. In recent years, there have been several cases of misappropriation of government funds in temples. The government has announced the new measure to three members of the Sangha Supreme Council. The new papers are expected “in three months,” a senior Thai government official said.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Thai Buddhist monks will receive within three months ‘smart identity cards’ clarifying their backgrounds so that the authorities can more easily scrutinise them, this according Ormsin Chivapruck, a senior official in the Prime Minister's Office.

The move comes as a spike in the number of high-profile cases involving ethical and legal abuses by abbots, novices and other monks has sparked public outrage.

Ormsin announced the new governmental measure following a meeting with three members of the Supreme Sangha Council, the highest body of Thai Buddhism: Phra Prom Molee, the fifth ecclesiastical regional governor, Phra Prom Munee of Wat Ratchabophit Maha Simaram Temple, and Abbot Phra Prom Bundit of Wat Prayurawongsa.

All three have agreed with the proposal, but will seek the opinions of other members as to what personal information should be on the new identity cards.

The details Thai authorities want include what tasks the monks have been assigned, when they were ordained, which temples they are attached to, when they were promoted, whether they have previously left the monkhood, and any criminal records or history of drug abuse.

"I expect we'll be able to roll them out in three months," Ormsin said. Currently, monks hold paper-based identification documents that are difficult to track.

The latest proposal is part of the government's effort to address a series of temple scandals, mostly involving the Buddhist clergy. In recent years, cases of misappropriation have become frequent, involving mainly government funds for temples.

For this reason, the authorities have asked religious authorities for greater collaboration in monitoring the finances of Buddhist places of worship.