Thai monks make masks from plastic to fight coronavirus pandemic

AFP
A Buddhist monk scrawls a prayer on an orange face mask beseeching "an end to the suffering" caused by the deadly coronavirus
AFP

A Buddhist monk scrawls a prayer on an orange face mask beseeching “an end to the suffering” caused by the deadly coronavirus — a finishing touch to the facial covering weaved out of recycled plastic at a temple in Thailand.

The country has one of the highest numbers of confirmed cases in Southeast Asia, and over the weekend infections doubled to 721 in a pandemic that has killed more than 15,000 globally.

As borders close and public spaces shutdown, a group of innovative monks near Bangkok are turning to their Buddhist faith in a bid to help contain the disease.

Chak Daeng temple is famous for a campaign led by its environmentally conscious abbot to produce robes from the 15 tons of plastic bottles it receives every month. Monks and volunteers weave synthetic fibers — extracted from the plastic — with cotton into piles of saffron-colored cloth.

But last month, Abbot Pranom Dhammalangkaro decided some of the plastic should be used to make face masks to protect people.

An extra filter layer is sewn on the cloth’s inner lining which shields users from potential spray droplets.

For additional peace of mind, Wat Chak Daeng’s “talisman master” can inscribe a Buddhist prayer on the mask — “To know the problem is to find a way to end the suffering.”

Many Buddhists believe finding the source of one’s current troubles sets a person on a path towards enlightenment, but Abbot Pranom admits the prayer will not work for everyone.

“For those who don’t believe in this kind of thing, it won’t make any difference.”

After bouts of panic buying in Bangkok over the weekend, he also made a plea for Thais to abide by Buddha’s teachings and remain “conscientious” to get through the crisis.

In neighboring Myanmar Buddhist monks have also been praying hard to try to protect their nation.

One group even took to the skies over the weekend to sprinkle holy water from hot air balloons over the country’s cherished temple-strewn landscape of Bagan.


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