Thai authorities detain well-known anti-Muslim Buddhist monk

In this Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, photo, Buddhist monk Apichart Punnajanto sits in a courtyard in Songkhla, southern Thailand. Authorities have detained Apichart on Tuesday who has posted online videos that harshly denounce Islam. (AP Photo)

BANGKOK — Thai authorities have detained a Buddhist monk who has posted online videos that harshly denounce Islam.

Apichart Punnajanto was detained Tuesday by officers from the Crime Suppression Division, said police Col. Dusit Promsin in the southern province of Songkhla.

Dusit said the monk was taken into custody because of videos he had posted online, though he did not describe the content.

Thai media published images of temple records indicating Apichart was defrocked Wednesday night at a temple in Bangkok.

Sunai Phasuk, senior researcher on Thailand for Human Rights Watch, criticized the detention in a Twitter post. He said it was more proof that under the ruling military junta, "everyone risks becoming a victim of freewheeling uses of power, secret detainments, and unlawful prosecutions."

Thailand has been ruled by the military since a 2014 coup toppled a democratically elected government, and the junta has made clear it does tolerates no dissent.

Apichart has spoken out on many issues, but is best known for posting a suggestion that a mosque be burned down anytime a monk is killed by Muslim separatist insurgents in the country's deep south, where more than 6,500 people have been killed since an insurgency flared in 2004.

The violence occurs mostly in Thailand's three southernmost provinces, the only ones with Muslim majorities in the Buddhist-dominated nation, but has on occasion spilled over into neighboring Songkhla.

Apichart also recently renewed a feud with a government religious official, saying in a video that he filed a defamation suit against him and sarcastically urging people in the south, where the official was recently transferred, to give him a "warm welcome."

The military government has the power to detain people without due process if they are considered a threat to public order or national security. They are frequently held briefly for what is called "attitude adjustment" before being freed without formal charges.

The Cross Cultural Foundation, a rights group active in the south, said it doesn't support actions by religious leaders that instigate conflict among religious groups, but urged Apichart's immediate release.


This story has been corrected to show that monk was detained Tuesday, not Wednesday.

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