Monk pilgrimage jams Bangkok streets

9 Apr 2012

Saffron-robed monks on a religious pilgrimage caused chaos on the streets of Bangkok last week. Around 1,500 monks trekked in from a Buddhist temple in Pathum Thani Province, north of the Thai capital, to another temple in the western Phasi Charoen District of the city.

The pilgrims’ route took in some of Bangkok’s main thoroughfares and districts, which included Phahon Yothin Road, Phaya Thai Road and Yaowarat. The traffic congestion was exacerbated by relatives of novice monks lining the route and laypeople spreading rose petals on the footpaths and bowing in homage.

The monks’ odyssey began at Phra Dhammakay Temple in Pathum Thani. Temple spokesperson Phra Sanitwong Wutthiwangso apologised on Friday for the traffic jams endured by Bangkok’s motorists over the previous five days.  

Phra Sanitwong said that the retinue of monks had caused traffic to back up for up to two hours a day from Monday onwards, for which he offered his heartfelt apologies. He said the temple had not expected such a large number of participants or laypeople along the route. He added that before motorists criticised the pilgrimage they should ask themselves how they would feel if one of the monks was their son and was making the journey to garner merit.  

Phra Sanitwong said the temple had informed police of the pilgrimage route before the monks set out and would try to publicise it better before repeat ones so that drivers could choose alternate routes.

The monks’ journey ended at Wat Pak Nam and had been staged to offer a tribute to Dhammakay Buddhist sect founder Phra Mongkol Thepmuni.

Drivers in Bangkok were not the only people to be miffed by the pilgrimage. Senator Truengjai Buranasompop also said last week that it was improper for monks to be walking on busy streets, despite the fact that monks collecting alms is an everyday sight in all regions of Thailand. 

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