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

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.


UK university SOAS to cut costs over COVID-19 and financial problems

Updated 31 May 2020

UK university SOAS to cut costs over COVID-19 and financial problems

  • Latest figures show that the internationally renowned higher education institution has multi-million pound deficits and risks running out of cash next year
  • SOAS said that it had taken short term action to reduce costs

LONDON: A UK university specializing in the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East has been forced to slash costs and implement drastic staff cuts after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic exacerbated its financial problems.
Staff at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), part of the University of London, said they feared that management was cutting costs to make the college an attractive takeover target for an overseas institution or one of its London rivals, UK newspaper the Guardian reported.
Latest figures show that the internationally renowned higher education institution has multi-million pound deficits and risks running out of cash next year.
The effects of the pandemic on student recruitment meant “a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the school’s ability to continue as a going concern” over the next 12 months, SOAS’s auditors warned.
One academic at SOAS told the Guardian that the college’s senior managers had “been unable to make significant changes over the last few years, and now it has ended in a big crisis. This is a serious failure of management.”
Its senior academics were ordered to identify staff cuts that were to be submitted on Friday, and departments were asked to balance their budgets while expecting a 50 percent drop in new international students, the report said.
SOAS’s International Foundation Courses and English Language Studies Center, which provides courses to international students, has reportedly been told to make so many cuts that it will effectively disappear, along with its 55 staff.
The college’s highly regarded international development department, which is ranked eighth in the world, will also suffer from major cuts. Its famed anthropology and sociology department is likely to lose between a third and half of its academic staff.
“I think people are in shock,” a staff member said. “This all happened while we are still coping with COVID-19.”
SOAS released a statement on Friday saying the coronavirus pandemic had affected all British universities and that it was “taking decisive action now so that we can continue to ensure we provide an excellent student experience to our new and returning students.”
It acknowledged that although its “accounts show that SOAS has already taken steps to reduce its deficit position,” the “impact of COVID-19 has put finances across the HE sector under even greater pressure than before.”
It added that it had taken short term action to reduce costs including “pausing capital spend, line by line scrutiny of non-pay budgets” and reducing the use of building space in the Bloomsbury area in London, outside its core campus.
SOAS also said that additional proposals for change were being considered and would be implemented ahead of the start of the new academic year in September. 
SOAS, University of London, has been ranked in the UK’s top 20 universities for Arts and Humanities, according to the 2020 Times Higher Education World University Ranking.
The rankings place SOAS 13th in the UK and 57th in the world.