Nine-year-old boy dies after beating by Buddhist monk

Monks are virtually beyond reproach in the Thailand’s villages, but the ruling junta has taken a strong line against clergy who break the law. (AFP)
Updated 24 August 2018
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Nine-year-old boy dies after beating by Buddhist monk

  • The monk allegedly assaulted Wattanapol Sisawad with a bamboo stick at the temple in Kanchanaburi
  • Monks are virtually beyond reproach in the country’s village

BANGKOK: A nine-year-old Buddhist novice has died after a beating by a Thai monk who allegedly battered him with a stick and slammed his head against a pillar, officials said Friday.
Monk Suphachai Suthiyano, 64, flew into a rage during a prayer session last weekend when the young disciple disrupted the ceremony with his “playful” behavior.
The monk allegedly assaulted Wattanapol Sisawad with a bamboo stick at the temple in Kanchanaburi, two hours west of Bangkok, striking him on his back several times before bashing his head into a pillar.
The child fell into a coma and passed away late Thursday, a hospital worker at Kanchanaburi provincial hospital said on Friday, requesting anonymity.
The incident comes as Thailand, a majority-Buddhist country, grapples with multiple other scandals among its clergy, including cases of extortion, sex and drug use.
The suspect, who was defrocked on Sunday following his arrest, was charged earlier this week with assault.
Police Captain Amnaj Chunbult said the charge will be revised to “assault resulting in death” once he receives official confirmation.
The boy’s mother Sukunya Tunhim told Thai media in a taped phone call she “will not forgive him (the monk).”
An official from the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the National Police Office in Bangkok confirmed an autopsy had already taken place, and that the boy’s relatives have reclaimed his body.
The Buddhist faith is bound with everyday life in Thailand, making it commonplace for most men, even children, to spend some time in a monastery as a novice.
Monks are virtually beyond reproach in the country’s villages, but the ruling junta has taken a strong line against clergy who break the law.
Earlier this month, Thailand’s infamous “jet-set monk” — so-called after footage emerged of him carrying a Louis Vuitton bag on a private jet — was sentenced to 114 years in prison for money-laundering and fraud.
In May the abbot of the popular “Golden Mount” temple in Bangkok surrendered to police after $4 million was found in bank accounts in his name.
The case came on the heels of an ongoing investigation into whether the National Office of Buddhism had misused millions of dollars under its control.
Authorities last year floated the idea of introducing digitized ID cards to better track monks with criminal convictions.


UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

Updated 19 June 2019
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UN: Nearly 71 million now displaced by war, violence at home

  • The figures are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics
  • UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017

GENEVA: A record 71 million people have been displaced worldwide from war, persecution and other violence, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday, an increase of more than 2 million from last year and an overall total that would amount to the world’s 20th most populous country.
The annual “Global Trends” report released by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees counts the number of the world’s refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people at the end of 2018, in some cases following decades of living away from home.
The figures, coming on the eve of World Refugee Day on Thursday, are bound to add fuel to a debate at the intersection of international law, human rights and domestic politics, especially the movement in some countries, including the US, against immigrants and refugees.
Launching the report, the high commissioner, Filippo Grandi, had a message for US President Donald Trump and other world leaders, calling it “damaging” to depict migrants and refugees as threats to jobs and security in host countries. Often, they are fleeing insecurity and danger themselves, he said.
The report also puts a statistical skeleton onto often-poignant individual stories of people struggling to survive by crossing rivers, deserts, seas, fences and other barriers, natural and man-made, to escape government oppression, gang killings, sexual abuse, militia murders and other such violence at home.
UNHCR said 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of last year, up from about 68.5 million in 2017 — and nearly a 65 percent increase from a decade ago. Among them, nearly three in five people — or more than 41 million people — have been displaced within their home countries.
“The global trends, once again unfortunately, go in what I would say is the wrong direction,” Grandi told reporters in Geneva. “There are new conflicts, new situations, producing refugees, adding themselves to the old ones. The old ones never get resolved.”
The phenomenon is both growing in size and duration. Some four-fifths of the “displacement situations” have lasted more than five years. After eight years of war in Syria, for instance, its people continue to make up the largest population of forcibly displaced people, at some 13 million.
Amid runaway inflation and political turmoil at home, Venezuelans for the first time accounted for the largest number of new asylum-seekers in 2018, with more than 340,000 — or more than one in five worldwide last year. Asylum-seekers receive international protection as they await acceptance or rejection of their requests for refugee status.
UNHCR said that its figures are “conservative” and that Venezuela masks a potentially longer-term trend.
Some 4 million people are known to have left the South American country in recent years. Many of those have traveled freely to Peru, Colombia and Brazil, but only about one-eighth have sought formal international protection, and the outflow continues, suggesting the strains on the welcoming countries could worsen.
Grandi predicted a continued “exodus” from Venezuela and appealed for donors to provide more development assistance to the region.
“Otherwise these countries will not bear the pressure anymore and then they have to resort to measures that will damage refugees,” he said. “We are in a very dangerous situation.”
The United States, meanwhile, remains the “largest supporter of refugees” in the world, Grandi said in an interview. The US is the biggest single donor to UNHCR. He also credited local communities and advocacy groups in the United States for helping refugees and asylum-seekers in the country.
But the refugee agency chief noted long-term administrative shortcomings that have given the United States the world’s biggest backlog of asylum claims, at nearly 719,000. More than a quarter-million claims were added last year.
He also decried recent rhetoric that has been hostile to migrants and refugees.
“In America, just like in Europe actually and in other parts of the world, what we are witnessing is an identification of refugees — but not just refugees, migrants as well — with people that come take away jobs that threaten our security, our values,” Grandi said. “And I want to say to the US administration — to the president — but also to the leaders around the world: This is damaging.”
He said many people leaving Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador through Mexico have faced violence by gangs and suffered from “the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens.”
The UNHCR report noted that by far, the most refugees are taken in in the developing world, not wealthy countries.
The figures marked the seventh consecutive year in which the numbers of forcibly displaced rose.
“Yet another year, another dreadful record has been beaten,” said Jon Cerezo of British charity Oxfam. “Behind these figures, people like you and me are making dangerous trips that they never wanted to make, because of threats to their safety and most basic rights.”