Since the 1980s the word "phrasong nak phatthana" (development monks) has been used by some sociological and anthropological researchers to evaluate monks' development leadership in the Northern and Northeastern regions of Thailand. The development monks, at that time, conducted many social and economic activities such as religious training to provide guidelines for people to abandon bad demeanor, establishing child care center, setting up rice bank, water-buffalo bank, credit union, self-help organization, and so on. Some development monks also conserved the traditional medicine and magical techniques for healing people. These projects have been referred to as social and human development and have been viewed as alternative, because approach to development in contemporary Thailand has been changing from driving economic-growth development to supporting social and human development, strengthening community participation and empowerment, promoting self-sufficiency, and profiting by traditional knowledge and folk wisdom.
The purpose of this presentation is not only to discuss the role of development monks as an alternative approach to community development in the Northeast, but also to examine the concept of 'development monks' through the historical and social contexts in which monks have been involved in development discourse. To define the concept of 'development monks' in Thailand precisely enables us to understand the role of monks' leadership in community development. This study uses long-term field data since the early 1980s to clarify the connection between development programs and the participation of monks and the Sangha, and the relationship between the monks' community development and practical Buddhism.