Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha last night announced on television that King Rama X had appointed the new patriarch of Thai Buddhism.
In his statement the prime minister said that His Majesty Maha
Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun had chosen Somdej Phra Maha
Muneewong as the leader of the country’s largest religious community.
Also known as Umporn Umpa-row, the 20th patriarch, 89, replaces
Somdej Phra Yannasangworn (3 October 1913-24 October 2013), who had been
appointed in 1989 by the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Since 2008, Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong served as abbot at the
Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram Ratcha Wara Maha Wihan temple, a royal
temple built in 1869 during the reign of King Rama V.
The exterior of the building is in typically Thai style, but the
interior is Gothic. Its name combines the words royal and construction
and thus means ‘temple built by the king’.
A great expert in education, Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong has been
involved for a long time in the education and training of novices and
Buddhist monks. He is also member of a committee that deals with law and
He opted for the monastic life in 1950 and obtained a master's degree
in history and archeology at Paranasi University (India). In 1973 he
was appointed chief missionary in Sydney, Australia, with the task of
He pursued his work with extreme efficiency and dedication, setting
up numerous temples and monasteries across New South Wales, and then in
cities like Canberra, Melbourne and Darwin.
The new Supreme Patriarch of Thai Buddhism heads the Mahamakut
Buddhist University Council. In 2009, he received an honorary degree in
Buddhism and in 2010 obtained a doctorate for his approach to spreading
the Buddha's teachings.
The formal investiture ceremony, led by King Maha Vajiralongkorn
Bodindradebayavarangku, is scheduled for 12 February at 5 pm at the Phra
Si Rattana Satsadaram temple.
Located on the eastern end of Grand Palace, the royal complex, it is
considered the most sacred temple in the country and houses the Emerald
Buddha, the sacred image that protects the Kingdom of Siam and the
people of Thailand.
Buddhism is Thailand’s main religion (93.6 per cent), primarily the
About 4.6 per cent of the population is Muslim, mainly
in the southern provinces, on the border with Malaysia. Christians are
just over 1 per cent.