A Buddhist temple in central Thailand has been left empty after all of the monks living there tested positive for methamphetamines and were removed.
The small temple in the rural province of Phetchabun, approximately 300 kilometers northeast of Bangkok, which was home to four monastics, will be assigned new monks. The four monks will be placed in a rehabilitation program.
A Bung Sam Phan District official confirmed that the four monks had tested positive for methamphetamines this week after a raid by police and health official: “The temple is now empty of monks and nearby villagers are concerned they cannot do any merit-making.” (ABC News)
Merit-making, in which Buddhist practitioners donate food and goods to temples, is an important aspect of daily life in Thailand, especially in rural areas.
Thailand is a major trafficking center for methamphetamines, where the drug is commonly known as yaba. In recent years, the drug has competed with heroin and opium as a source of income for people living in the remote region where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet known as the Golden Triangle. The supply that has flooded the Thai market flowed in from the Golden Triangle, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said this summer.
“The drop in the yaba price from traditional highs started three or four years ago, as meth started flooding out of Shan State and the Golden Triangle. But it then dropped further and very fast in the past 18 months as armed groups, including some of the smaller groups, really increased tablet production,” said UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific Jeremy Douglas. (Thai Inquirer)
The dangers of methamphetamine use in Thailand made news headlines almost exactly a year ago, when a former police officer carried out Thailand’s largest mass killing in recent history. The officer had been fired from his job for methamphetamine use. That tragedy led to widespread calls for the government to address issues around gun ownership, drug use, and mental health.
More recently, officials in Hong Kong seized a record amount of methamphetamine valued at US$100 million. That shipment was believed to have come from South America and was destined for Australia.
According to 2020 data, the UNODC estimated the value of the methamphetamine market in Asia to be more than US$60 billion.
In June, Thailand legalized the use of marijuana, a move that has worried some across the Buddhist country. In its response to the new law, Thailand’s Sangha Supreme Council (SSC) passed a decision to ban the use and cultivation of marijuana by Buddhist monks and novices. This came after several novice monks were kicked out of a short-term stay at a Buddhist monastery after they were caught smoking marijuana.*
Thailand is a predominantly Theravada Buddhist country. According to government census data for 2015, 94.5 per cent of the nation’s population of 69 million identify as Buddhists. The Southeast Asian kingdom has some 300,000 Buddhist monks and approximately 40,000 temples. While some female renunciants also exist, they have not been officially recognized by monastic authorities in Thailand, and female renunciates do not generally enjoy as much societal acceptance as their male counterparts.
Thai temple left without monks after they all test positive for meth (Yahoo News)
‘Merit-making’ on hold as monks fail drug tests leaving Buddhist temple empty (ABC News)
Thailand’s methamphetamine drug supply pushes prices to as low as 10 Baht/tablet (Thai Inquirer)
Hong Kong Makes Biggest Ever Meth Seizure, Worth over $100 Million (VOA)
In wake of nursery killings, Thailand faces reckoning over drugs, guns and mental health (The Guardian)
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