A policeman swapped his tight, zip up uniform for saffron robes last week in a cunning plan to lure two drug dealers to arrest in Ratchaburi province, central Thailand.
Villagers in Ban Pong district complained to police that Ya Ba (“crazy drug”) was being sold at a famous temple in the area, so Superintendent of Ban Pong Police Station Pol. Col. Piyapong Wongketujai went to investigate on Friday.
The officer requested to borrow some robes from the monks and shaved his head, transforming into what appeared to be a true member of the Buddhist Sangha.
The “monk” waited near an advertising board until two men on motorbikes pulled up outside a chemist on the temple grounds.
The men were clearly doing a drug deal, so “Phra” Piyapong jumped out from behind the sign and put both men in a headlock so they couldn’t escape. Then, Piyapong called in reinforcement to make the arrests.
The police confiscated 34 pills of Ya Ba – hardly the biggest drug bust of the century considering the officer’s efforts – and arrested 29 year old Itthipon “Chok” Phonriap and 31 year old Wirichon “Aof” Sonthisaka, two local men from Ban Pong district.
However, the police officer actually broke the law in the process.
There’s a reason people don’t dress up in Buddhist robes at fancy dress parties in Thailand like how some Westerners dress up like Catholic nuns on Halloween.
If you are not ordained as a Buddhist monk – in an ordination ceremony recognised as legitimate by Thailand’s Buddhist clergy – then wearing monk’s robes in Thailand is illegal.
Buddhist nuns in Thailand (maechis) wear white robes. Women in Thailand are not allowed to become fully fledged bhikkhuni – the female equivalent of a bhikkhu (monk), so they are not allowed to wear orange robes.
Thailand’s “rebel nuns”, such as Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, choose to go against the grain and get ordained as a bhikkhuni in another country where it is permitted, such as Sri Lanka, and then return to Thailand.
Upon returning to Thailand, bhikkuni often face backlash because the Sangha does not recognise their ordination ceremony as legitimate and argue that the women are breaking the law by wearing orange robes.