Source: The Sydney Morning Herald
Wire Service: Reuters
On July 31, 2004 Reuters reported, "Soldiers were ordained as monks this week before heading for remote temples in Thailand's largely Muslim south in the hope of restoring some confidence among Buddhists in the violence-torn area. The soldiers, policemen and public servants among the 222 monks ordained at temples in three Malay-speaking provinces will mostly serve for the three-month Buddhist Lent period that starts tomorrow. Most of the shaven-headed, saffron-robed monks were low-ranking soldiers whose mission will be to boost morale of Buddhists during the period when the devout study holy scriptures, they said. 'People have been scared to become monks these days, so we are now recruiting monks from soldiers,' Southern Army commander Lieutenant-General Pisan Wattanawongkeeree said after presiding over one ordination ceremony. General Pisan said he was not worried about their safety, despite three monks being among the 300 people killed since January, when the violence erupted in a region where a low-key separatist war was fought in the 1970s and 1980s. The Government has been unable to pinpoint the reason for the violence, citing a complex mix of history, corruption, crime, drugs, religion and separatism...About one-fifth of the 200 temples in the far south have been unstaffed for years and more were abandoned after the monks were killed in January. This left many Buddhists in the area without any monks, who are a common sight in the rest of Thailand."