Operation Bogus Bust (Part 1)

What if you see bogus monastics on the streets of Singapore asking for money – pretending they need funds for food, building projects and such? If there is only one single thing you should do, it is to call the cops at 999, to request the police to come in plain clothes. Why? Well, I called the cops to arrest two bogus ‘monks’ standing outside Waterloo Street’s Guanyintang temple with begging bowls. But they had informers, who alerted them of the approach of obviously uniformed cops – some 100 metres away. (It was comical to see them pull up their robes and flee though.) It’s easy – just describe the location to the cops. You don’t have to stay around or watch what happens if you don’t have time. There’s no need to make any statement too.

Please note though, that in countries such as Japan, it is a custom for monastics to stand stationary, to do chanting for blessing the public, and to receive money in their bowls. But such is not the case in countries like Singapore and Malaysia at all. In the past, the bogus monks in Singapore were stationary, which made them easier to apprehend. Nowadays, mobile ‘nuns’ are more popularly used instead – which makes immediate reports to the cops even more crucial. The general direction the bogus monastics are walking to should be informed too. If one wishes to track them, one must be very careful. Tracking bogus monastics might be dangerous, though there is no recorded case of intimidation yet.

Protect the integrity of real monastics by exposing the fake. Previously, a syndicate of 30 fake monks were caught. Some were foreigners forced to be fake monks as their passports were withheld by syndicate leaders, when they were promised work earlier. Free these conned ‘workers’ by handing them over to the law! Mere scaring them away does not do much if they simply go elsewhere. Having ever scared three away, not once did I detect any remorse while they fled. The syndicates might force them to continue their ‘jobs’ despite their fear. Scaring them away might only urge them to increase their vigilance, making them harder to track. They might be abused when they turn in empty bowls too? Arresting them in any case is for their own good – especially if they are perfectly willing ongoing partners in crime.

With some ‘experience’ from spy games, I am likely to secretly call the cops when I next spot bogus monastics, before shadowing them as far as I can, telling the cops to call me for their latest location. But that’s just the adventurous me – not recommended for all. If there are more friends, there might be safety in numbers, but shadowing might be more conspicuous! But it is good to play safe! Maybe there’s a ‘simpler’ solution – organise big and burly Buddhists in pairs to ‘patrol’ the usual haunts of fake monastics – to detain them on the spot once they appear – till cops come! They can then be interrogated to uncover and bust their HQ. Anyone wants to be fearless Dharma Protectors? Do help to spread the message on how to spot and report bogus monastics too!

Real (Food-collecting) Monastics / Bogus (Money-collecting) Ones

1. Stand outside food centres / Walk from table to table
2. Wait for food donor to approach / Approach patrons and reject unpacked food
3. Alms bowl covered till food comes / Bowl always open for money
4. Do not carry pendants or strings  for ’sale’ / Exchange them for money
5. Nuns wear no make-up or ornaments / Some don them
6. Collect food between dawn and noon / Collect money at any hour
7. Approach households for food / Approach for money
8. Fearless when police mentioned / Fearful when so

Related Article:
Operation Bogus Bust (Part 2): The Follow-up

19 thoughts on “Operation Bogus Bust (Part 1)

  1. thanks or the reply.

    I feel that if the problem persist then there is a need to write to press again, and again and again until ppl get it. Ppl’s memory need to be refreshed once in awhile 😉

    Again, if the problem is serious, a well co-ordinated effort would be useful. Grassroot effort working with the Police; put up posters at “Hot spots”, talk to stall owners… I believe the police would want to root out social menace and don’t mind the “free labour”, we would have added creditability by working with the authority as well.


  2. I see, but compare with government organisation, SBF only needs to tend to Buddhist matter. I always have the impression they are there to serve the Buddhist community, and no Buddhist matter is however small? Well, I maybe wrong, 😛

    I don’t think I should relate the feedbacks here. It isn’t fair to SBF or the owner of moonpointer. This is after all not a SBF related blog or forum. But if you are one of the channels we can get through to SBF, it would be great! 🙂 And trust me, my friends tried any possible channels they could find. You could be our last hope! Sadhu!

    Yes Menghaw, another letter to the press is a good start! 🙂

  3. Hmmm each government agency has their own focal area of responsibility too. And for me to really help it’ll be useful to at least let me know of what nature the feedback is pertaining to? Don’t need the details but just the subject of the issue in question. Then they may be prompted to revisit the specific issue of your concern, unless your intention is just to feedback about their unresponsiveness to feedback, then that’s fine too :pff:

  4. Thank you Keira, it is not for me to decide also, sorry! But what i know is some of the matters had passed so long, and some required immediate attention from SBF then but didn’t get it. My friends had since lost confident in them. But yes, maybe you can let them know about their unresponsiveness and I hope they can regain back my friends’ confidence in them soon. 🙂 Oh, let’s not forget to suggest them to write to the press about the bogus monks and nuns?

    Hi Shian, would you be writing to the press too? I heard you are a prolific Buddhist writer 😉

  5. Rule #1: When in doubt, call the cops immediately –

    ‘Hi, there is what could be a fake monk/nun standing at ___ (or ‘moving from ___ to ___ ) S/he is soliciting money. Please send police in plain clothes to check immediately, because from experience, s/he might have informers in the area. I’ll be keeping tabs on his/her movements. You can call me back at this number for updates. Thank you.’

    It is better to assume the monastic is fake than not, because it prevents the person from doing more wrong if s/he is fake, while it will not be a problem at all if the monastic is real.

    Hi A1, the chanting might be genuine but many Asians know how to chant. If food is given in packet form, fake monastics are likely to take it, so as to look real. Try putting food directly in the bowl – on the money! The bowl IS for food anyway. If he wants food, he should just take food and leave. Giving food will feed their ”occupation’, just like giving money. I don’t think he needed more food; just wanted more money. Arresting fake monastics is compassion in action – to force them to stop cheating and to break free from syndicates and creating of hellish negative karma from impersonating monastics.

    From past interaction, I’m also disappointed with the relevant Buddhist ‘authority’s’ almost zero (apparent) action. Have heard of real monastics let a fake monastic get away too. It’s amazing how real monastics might not fight timely enough for the integrity of their vocation. Calling the cops is best – they can monitor hotspots more professionally. An email to the relevant org above (later) will do too – but I don’t know if anything will be done with the info.

  6. Hi mini et al, If nothing goes wrong, I’ll be asking someone to submit an article on the issue to Nanyang Buddhist (SBF’s quarterly mag) for publication (for Jan 2010 issue). Will be writing a letter to the press too. Your comments here will help to shape both articles!

    When both or either get published, would like to ask for assistance from readers here to help circulate the summarised info (probably made into downloadable/printable flyers/posters later) for hotspot shopowners and/or passers-by. Maybe we can have an outing to distribute them!

    By the way, shopowners should not just chase fake monastics away or threaten to call the cops – they should really call the cops – secretly. Chasing them away too abruptly actually makes them harder to catch. Unless all shopowners chase them away at around the same time, they will simply move to other spots. Arresting them helps to ensure remorse better. We wouldn’t want them to dream up of new cheating methods


  7. Hi everyone, please do go ahead to write emails and letters to the press, police and any other relevant organisations on the issue. The more feedback, the better! If not, it would seem like just one ot two people ranting away. Do consider sharing your write-ups here too! Thanks! Amituofo


  8. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.