The king of Thailand has offered robes to Phra Khuva Boonchum, a Buddhist monk who held religious rites outside the cave from which 13 Thai youth soccer players and their coach are in the process of being rescued.
On Saturday, His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun went to see the monk, who is known as Maing Hpone Sayadaw in Myanmar, and offered him robes, Thai News newspaper reported.
The monk became a household name in Thailand after accurately predicting, before their location had been discovered, that the boys and their coach would be found alive within two days. “They are all still there; they will be found in one or two days,” he told media at the time.
The offering of the Royal Kathin Robes is part of Thailand’s Buddhist culture, which it shares with Myanmar.
The Shan monk has visited the Tham Luang cave complex in Chiang Rai three times since the saga began.
Each time, he has held religious ceremonies and prayed. Top generals and officials welcomed him inside the cave, where he held religious rites.
The day after his second visit, the rain that had been pouring down in the area for days stopped and the missing group was located. Many Thais believe the monk’s intervention prompted the hiatus in the rain.
A lifelong vegetarian famous for his long, solitary periods of meditation in caves in Thailand, Bhutan and Shan State, the monk’s Burmese name derives from Mong Phong (pronounced “Maing Hpone” in Burmese) village in eastern Shan State, where he spent time at a forest retreat when he was 16.
Revered for his highly moral conduct, Maing Hpone Sayadaw has many devotees in Myanmar, Thailand and Laos. He survives on fruits and biscuits, and always walks barefoot, no matter the weather. The monk’s followers include generals in Myanmar and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Apart from his solitary retreats, during which he maintains total silence, Maing Hpone Sayadaw (aka Phra Khuva Boonchum) is well known for his generosity; he donates everything that is offered to him to others.
The monk moves between temples in Shan State and Thailand. His followers regularly visit him at the temples, and their numbers are expected to grow following his recent media exposure.