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Monday, August 27, 2012

Playing the Numbers in Thailand, Let's count the monks 27.08.12

The other day I read that "Despite its increasing population,the number of Buddhist monks in Thailand had fallen from 300,000 around a decade ago to 120,000 today" by the Bangkok Post. There was no reference to the source of this number and since I have little faith in Thailand's Nearly English Language Dailies I decided to do some research of my own  and enlist the help of a couple contacts here in Thailand.
First of all every fully ordained monk in Thailand caries an ID card..., or should. As of today I have not been able to find out the status of short time (like for the Pansaa) monks and are they  issued ID cards. Of course, as I have previously opined, these men should be ordained as Samana, not Bhikkhus.
Then someone told me it depends on who you count and how you count them! WTF? The number of 227 Precept monks, not samana, should not be a confusing question, but this is Thailand.
Now to the Department of Religious Affairs is in The Ministry of Culture. If you want to find things like this out I suggest you go to the EPPO website  Royal Thai Government Websites Directory. If you enjoy seeing what a website should not look like, and lots of broken links, this is a great place to visit. I have sent an email to the pertinent department and have little hope of an answer.
A friend used guru and got the following'
"http://guru.google.co.th/guru/thread?tid=05489de8a5235034
This blog replies to a question as to how many monks in Thailand, dated end of 2007.
The reply says a survey done by a Silapakorn university Faculty of Arts professor 125,000 fully ordained monks with another 60,000 novices in rural areas, with the reply also pointing out that these figures are at odds with the Department of Religious Affairs that cites a total of 313,267. , differences said to be due to many studying at Ministry schools instead of those of the "Schools of Holy Scriptures.".
Google Translate. "The results of the professional campaign. Merit support from the Department of Philosophy. Faculty of Arts. University. The potential quantity and quality of the clergy. In rural Thailand. Held in late 2550 in which the results of the study indicate that There are only 125,000 priests worldwide picture. Novice and approximately 60,000 images. Which the data from the survey that the Office of National Buddhism. There are a number of monks and 313,267 images."
The findings stated. The reason is that there are fewer monks. Due to popular education in the schools under the Basic Education Commission. School rather than the Scripture. The current economic conditions. The popular ones are short, 3-day, 7 days ordained only.
In additional comments on another web board, this professor (Head of the Department of Philosophy. Faculty of Arts) states that he believes that on average there are about 20 monks per temple, but with only perhaps four that are fully ordained, and that he. is in great doubt that Thailand has a lump sum total as much as 300,000.
http://philosophysu.webs.com/instructors.htm shows him as Assistant Professor and Gives Contact email. You might want to get hold of him. He sounds like the real deal. Their web page is difficult to read with that background.
   As you can see this is not going to be easy!
As of 2002, there were 32,000 monasterises, 265,956 monks and 87,695 novices in the Kingdom

 there are about 35,000 temples and 365442 monks and 75,093 novices (Source: National Buddhist Center: December 2005)   

The use of numbers like 365442 and 265956 would almost make me think these are real census numbers, but this is Thailand and like the Thai Government has stated "it is okay to lie.

Okay maybe somewhere between 120.000 and 375,000. I am not satisfied. I am in the proccess of getting into the department of Religious Affairs Office in Sakon Nakhon and will keep you as informed as I am.

And my emails to the Bangkok Post remain unanswered!