PENANG Island City Council (MBPP) will put up banners near 10 public markets and hawker centres to warn the public of bogus monks.
The identified hotspots are Jelutong market, Fisherman’s Wharf food court, Chowrasta Market, Chowrasta hawker centre, Sungai Pinang food court, Ayer Itam food court, Ayer Itam market, Sungai Ara Lavender food court, Anson Road market and Kuantan Road market.
MBPP councillor John Ooh Sin Hwa, who received about 30 complaints over the matter, said the bogus monks have taken advantage of the public’s generosity.
He said on Sept 17, five bogus monks who were Thai nationals were picked up in Bukit Mertajam following a tip-off by the Royal Thai Consulate-General.
He added that the five had been sent to the Immigration Department for further action.
“We believe they are part of a syndicate that has been collecting cash from the public, not for religious or charitable purposes but for personal use,” he added.
Ooh said the council held a roundtable discussion recently with the Malaysian Buddhist Association (MBA), United Buddhist Order Of Malaysia (UBOM), United Buddhist Order Of Penang (UBOP) and Penang Harmony Corporation (Harmonico), which is a state agency responsible for non-Muslim affairs, as well as the Royal Thai Consulate General.
“We have the banners designed by MBA to help resolve the issue,” he said in a press conference at the Jelutong market.
The council’s complaint hotline number, the council’s e-complaint QR code and the MBA line number are displayed on the banners, Ooh said.
Batu Lanchang assemblyman Ong Ah Teong said the number of bogus monks had increased following the reopening of international borders.
MBA assistant honorary secretary Loo Keat Seng said a genuine monk’s bowl was meant only for food.
The alms bowls of real monks were usually covered with a lid and they would remove the lid only when the public offered them food.