Abstract

There is a long history of Theravada Buddhist monk involvement in militarism in mainland Southeast Asia. Here, I examine recent Lao monk support for political and military activities directed against the communist Lao People's Democratic Republic government and its Vietnamese supporters since 1975. Monks have not become directly involved in armed conflict, as monastic rules do not allow participation in offensive violent acts, or arms trading, but they have played various important roles in supporting armed resistance against the Lao government. Some monks assisting insurgents have been shot in Thailand. Now most of the Lao insurgent-supporting monks live in the United States, Canada, and France, where a few continue to assist the political resistance against the Lao government, arguing that providing such support does not contradict Buddhist teachings. This article demonstrates how Lao Buddhist monks have negotiated religious conduct rules in the context of strong nationalistic convictions.

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