Buddhist Monks and Militant Violence in Laos
Many, especially outside Asia, are under the mistaken impression that Buddhists are inherently non-violent, especially in comparison with other world religions such as Christianity and Islam. Despite this impression, violence is often linked with Buddhism and perpetrated by Buddhists. Monks in Theravada lineages are not allowed to directly engage in violence, but some have become involved with militancy. Although I am unaware of any Lao monks who have directly participated in violent acts, a few have been shot in Thailand by those opposed to them for providing support to insurgents. This indicates that their support is perceived as substantial and significant.Achan Chanh Ly (left) and Achan Ky (right) receiving offerings from a Lao insurgent at Wat Pa Sanamsai in Ubon Ratchathani Province, Thailand (1982)
The Thai Theravada Buddhist monk, Kittivuddho, famously stated in 1976 that it was not a sin to kill a communist. Militant monks in Sri Lanka and Burma have been covered by international media. But much less is known about the role of ethnic Lao Buddhist monks in supporting militant violence directed against the communist Lao People’s Democratic Republic government and their Vietnamese allies since 1975.