BANGKOK — A Buddhist organization on Tuesday asked the Election Commission to dissolve a conservative party claiming to apply the Buddha’s teachings to their policies.
Speaking outside the commission’s offices today, the activists said the People’s Reform Party violates a constitutional clause which bans “damaging” Buddhism. It’s the second bid to remove a party from the race this election season.
“It’s using Buddhism as political canvassing,” said Ekapop Laolapa, the leader of the Center for Coordination of Buddhists, one of the Buddhist groups that routinely campaigned against alleged abuse of the religion.
The People’s Reform, led by devout Buddhist politician Paiboon Nititawan, raised eyebrows when it unveiled campaign posters proclaiming, “We humbly receive Lord Buddha’s teachings and apply them to finding solutions for the people’s grievances.”
The party is stacked with pro-establishment politicians and activists who led street protests five years ago which brought down the elected government. Former Senator Paiboon also had a direct role in ousting then-prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra by filing a lawsuit alleging that she abused her power.
The judges found Yingluck guilty in May 2014 and removed her from office just before the military seized power.
Paiboon could not be reached for comment as of publication time.
It’s not the first time he’s gone after other Buddhists. While he served on a junta-appointed body tasked with reforming organized religion, Paiboon advocated forcing all temples to disclose their financials to the government in order to promote transparency.
His proposal drew outrage from many Buddhists who viewed the move as an attempt by the junta to control the religious authorities.
Buddhism occupies a special place in the law. Although it’s not enshrined as the state religion, Section 67 of the constitution says the government must promote Buddhism and guard against any attempt to “sabotage” the faith.