Since 1932, Thailand has had 19 constitutions. Most countries have had just one. This was one of the observations made by the Dr Mettananando Bhikkhu when he spoke to the Pattaya City Expats Club on Sunday, July 27 on current issues in Thailand. He previously spoke to the Club in February 2013 on the topic of “Thai Buddhism in a Nutshell.”
Dr. Mettananando, a former monk, holds two degrees from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok including a medical degree. He was the first monk graduated from Oxford University, where he was also awarded the Boden Prize of Sanskrit, and from Harvard Divinity School. His last degree is a Ph.D. from the University of Hamburg, Germany. He has written a number of books in Thai and English introducing a new way of interpreting the Buddhist canon including novels, dramas and more than 100 TV programs televised in Thailand for the promotion of social ethics. He also teaches Buddhism at Assumption University and Center for Thai Studies, Chulalongkorn University and serves as a member of the Ethics Committee of the Faculties of Medicine. Currently, he is the Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Hospice Foundation of Thailand which is the national network of hospice and palliative care of Thailand.
Elfie Seitz, executive editor of the German language Pattaya Blatt newspaper, enjoys breakfast with friends before the start of the presentation by Dr. Mettananando to the PCEC.
Dr Mettananando gave a freewheeling presentation on the current situation in Thailand and on organised Buddhist religion in this country. He talked about some of the historical events that help explain the situation that Thailand finds itself in today. He said that Democracy came to Thailand via the coup of 27 June 1932 which replaced the absolute monarchy with a constitutional monarchy. Since then, there have been 13 successful coups (most of them bloodless) and 11 failed coup attempts. Further, all of the coups were carried out with the stated objective of ending corruption.
PCEC Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg brings everyone up to date on club activities and upcoming events.
In his view, one of the reasons why democracy is not more firmly entrenched in Thailand is the poor quality of the educational system, which is based on rote memorising rather than critical thinking. He said that generally Thais accept what they are told or taught without challenge. Additionally, Thailand’s educational system ranked eighth out of the 10 ASEAN countries. To illustrate, he mentioned that in Thailand, it is rare to meet a monk who speaks good English; whereas he has met several monks from Cambodia who speak it well.
In his talk, Dr Mettananando also touched on the tensions inherent in Thai society, Thaksin Shinawatra’s years as prime minister, what he thinks will happen in the next year or two, and what type of Parliament and what form of democracy he thinks will emerge from the new constitution, expected in 2015.
With respect to organised Buddhism, he described how the administration of Buddhist monasteries and monks in Thailand was consolidated and placed under the rule of a Supreme Patriarch. He said that attempts to reform this structure have consistently been met with resistance from the monks themselves.
In answering questions, he gave his views on the origins of the conflict in the Southern provinces of Thailand where Muslims make up a majority of the population.
After Dr. Mettananando’s talk, Master of Ceremonies Richard Silverberg brought everyone up to date on upcoming events and called on Roy Albiston to conduct the always informative Open Forum where questions are asked and answered about Expat living in Thailand, especially Pattaya.
For more information on the PCEC’s many activities, visit their website at www. pcecclub.org.
Dr. Mettananando gave a freewheeling presentation on the current situation in Thailand and on organised Buddhist religion in this country.