A Buddhist monk infamous for hate speech against Muslims has been detained by security forces, sources told BenarNews on Wednesday.
Phra Maha Apichart Punnajanto, a monk at Bangkok’s Benchamabophit Temple, used social media to promote violence against Muslims in Thailand’s Deep South because insurgents from the violence-scarred region are blamed for killing more than a dozen monks in the past 13 years.
He was detained by military officials in the southern province of Songkhla, Ruckchart Suwan, president of Yala-based Buddhist Network for Peace, told BenarNews by phone.
“I called Fort Senanarong, the military there said he was transferred to the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok. But when I called it, the police said nothing,” Ruckchart said.
Fort Senanarong is an army base in Songkhla, and some of its districts are part of the Deep South region, together with Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat provinces.
BenarNews was unable to reach the Crime Suppression Division of the Bangkok police for confirmation.
Dusit Promsin, a police colonel in Songhkhla, told the Associated Press that Phra Apichart had been detained there Tuesday because of videos he had posted online.
In a YouTube video uploaded on March 10, Phra Apichart said he wanted to see Deep South Muslims “in the same situation like Rohingya people, who were hunted, beheaded by Burmese, from children to older ones.” Rohingya Muslims have been subjected to arson, rapes and killings by security forces and civilian militias in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, rights advocates say.
Phra Apichart also urged Buddhists to exact revenge on Deep South Muslims by burning mosques.
Buddhist Network for Peace and other non-governmental organizations called for authorities to clarify the status of the monk.
“Though the Foundation disagrees with hate speech regarding religions, the authorities’ mishandling of religious figures may fuel the flame,” Pornpen Khongkachonkiet of the Cross Cultural Foundation said in a statement released Wednesday.
“If the authorities are to tackle seditious speeches, they must carry it out in an open manner, under the framework of laws and human rights, with understanding of the sensitivity of the issue in Deep South, ASEAN and international level,” she said.
Nearly 7,000 people have been killed since 2004 in violence linked to a separatist movement in Thailand’s southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat – areas that were part of a Malay Muslim sultanate before being annexed by Bangkok in 1909.
Muslims live throughout Buddhist-majority Thailand, where a lack of understanding about the Deep South conflict and media focus on violence there, has fueled Islamophobia, experts say.
In June, Buddhists in northeastern Thailand filed a petition to stop a Muslim community’s efforts to register a recently constructed mosque, citing fears of violence similar to that in the country’s insurgency-stricken Deep South.