The Supreme Patriarch of Thailand or Sangharaja (สังฆราช; ) is the head of the order of Buddhist monks in Thailand. His full title is Somdet Phra Saṅgharāja Sakalamahāsaṅghapariṇāyaka (สมเด็จพระสังฆราช สกลมหาสังฆปริณายก; ; 'the Supreme Patriarch, the Head of all Members of the Sangha').

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Ancient history

As early as the Sukhothai period (thirteenth to sixteenth centuries CE), there were city-dwelling and forest-dwelling orders, and there was more than one Supreme Patriarch appointed. In modern times, however, only one position is responsible for all fraternities and orders. +more From 1992 to 2016, the Supreme Patriarch was chosen from the most senior member of the Supreme Sangha Council and officially endorsed by the King. the Supreme Patriarch was formally appointed by the King of Thailand and co-signed by the Prime Minister, with consultation of the Sangha Supreme Council, an administrative body of the Thai Sangha. The Supreme Patriarch has legal authority to oversee both of Thailand's Theravada fraternities, the Maha Nikaya and the Dhammayuttika Nikaya, as well as the small minority of Mahayana Buddhists in the country. He is also the President of the Sangha Supreme Council.

Developments since the 2000s

There has been recent discussion about reforming the Thai Sangha's leadership structure, including a 2002 proposal which would have moved many of the Sangha Council's and the Supreme Patriarch's powers to a new executive council. However, in 2015, it seemed the junta was not pushing for new Sangha legislation after all, after the proposals led to many organized protests and heated debate.

The Supreme Patriarch was Somdet Phra Nyanasamvara Suvaddhana, who had served in this position since 1989. After suffering from increasingly serious health problems, died on 24 October 2013, aged a hundred years. +more In 2003, because of questions about the Supreme Patriarch's ability to fulfill his duties, the government of Thailand had appointed a special committee to act in his stead. In early 2004, Somdet Kiaw Upaseṇo was appointed acting Supreme Patriarch, an office that he held until his death in 2013.

After the death of Somdet Kiaw, Somdet Chuang Varapuñño of Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen became the next acting Supreme Patriarch. Despite a nomination from the Supreme Sangha Council, his official appointment as Supreme Patriarch was stalled due a refusal of the Thai secular government to forward his nomination to the King. +more In December 2016, the junta passed an amendment to the Sangha Act changing the rules for appointment of the Supreme Patriarch to bypass the Supreme Sangha Council and allow the King of Thailand to appoint the Supreme Patriarch directly, with the Thai Prime Minister countersigning. While proponents considered the amendment a good way for politicians to solve the problems the Sangha had not been able to solve, opponents described the amendment as "sneaky" (ลักไก่). Chao Khun Prasarn Candasaro, vice-rector of the Mahachulalongkornrajavidyalaya University and assistant-abbot of Wat Mahathat Yuwaratrangsarit, stated the amendment showed a grave lack of respect for the Sangha Council's authority, because the council had not been involved in the amendment at all. He argued that the Monastic Act had always given the final decision to the King anyway, and pointed out that all conflicts about the appointment were caused by the junta's National Reform Council, not by the Sangha itself. Finally, on 7 February 2017, Somdet Amborn Ambaro was appointed by King Rama X to serve as the next Supreme Patriarch out of five names given to him by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha. The appointment ceremony was held on 12 February at Wat Phra Kaew, Grand Palace.

List of Supreme Patriarchs

%% |No.%|Portrait%|Name%|Birth name%|Dharma name%|Tenure from%|Tenure until%|Order%|Temple
1Somdet Phra Ariyavongsanana I (Sri)Sriunknown1782/83 2325 BE1794/75 2337 BEWat Rakhangkhositaram
2Somdet Phra Ariyavongsanana II (Suk)Sukunknown1794/75 2337 BE1816/87 2359 BEWat Mahathat Yuwaratrangsarit
3Somdet Phra Ariyavongsanana III (Mee)Meeunknown1816/87 2359 BE1819/20 2362 BEWat Mahathat Yuwaratrangsarit
4Somdet Phra Ariyavongsanana IV (Suk Nyanasamvara)Sukunknown1820/21 2363 BE1822/23 2365 BEWat Mahathat Yuwaratrangsarit
5Somdet Phra Ariyavongsanana V (Don)Donunknown1822/23 2365 BE1842/43 2385 BEWat Mahathat Yuwaratrangsarit
6Somdet Phra Ariyavongsanana VI (Nag)Nagunknown1843/44 2386 BE1849/50 2392 BEWat Ratchaburana
7Somdet Phra Maha Samana Chao Kromma Phra Paramanuchitchinorot (Prince Vasugri Suvaṇṇaraṃsi)Prince VasugriSuvaṇṇaraṃsi1851/52 2394 BE1853/54 2396 BEWat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm
8Somdet Phra Maha Samana Chao Kromma Phraya Pavares Variyalongkorn (Prince Rurk Paññāaggo)Prince RurkPaññāaggo1853/54 2396 BE1892/93 2435 BEDhammayuttika NikayaWat Bowonniwet Vihara
9Somdet Phra Ariyavongsagatanana II (Sa Pussadevo)SaPussadevo1893/94 2436 BE1899/1900 2442 BEDhammayuttika NikayaWat Ratchapradit Sathit Mahasimaram
10Somdet Phra Maha Samana Chao Kromma Phraya Vajirananavarorasa (Prince Manusyanagamanob Manussanāgo)Prince ManusyanagamanobManussanāgo1910/11 2453 BE1921/22 2464 BEDhammayuttika NikayaWat Bowonniwet Vihara
11Phrachao Worawong Thoe Kromma Luang Jinavorn Sirivaddhana Somdet Phra Sangharaja Chao (Prince Bhujong Jombunud Sirivaḍḍhano)Prince Bhujong JombunudSirivaḍḍhano1921/22 2464 BE1937/38 2480 BEDhammayuttika NikayaWat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram
12Somdet Phra Ariyavongsagatanana III (Phae Tissadevo)Phae PhongpalaTissadevo1938/39 2481 BE1944 2487 BEMaha NikayaWat Suthat Thepphaararam
13Somdet Phra Sangharaja Chao Kromma Luang Vajirananavongs (Prince Chuen Navavongs Sucitto)Mom Rajavongse Chuen NavavongsSucitto1945 2488 BE1958 2501 BEDhammayuttika NikayaWat Bowonniwet Vihara
14Somdet Phra Ariyavongsagatanana IV (Plod Kittisobhaṇo)Plod KetuthatKittisobhaṇo1960 2503 BE1962 2505 BEMaha NikayaWat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram
15Somdet Phra Ariyavongsagatanana V (Yoo Ñāṇodayo)Yoo Changsopha (Sae-Chua)Ñāṇodayo1963 2506 BE1965 2508 BEMaha NikayaWat Saket
16Somdet Phra Ariyavongsagatanana VI (Chuan Uṭṭhāyī)Chuan SirisomUṭṭhāyī1965 2508 BE1971 2514 BEDhammayuttika NikayaWat Makut Kasattriyaram
17Somdet Phra Ariyavongsagatanana VII (Pun Puṇṇasiri)Pun SukcharoenPuṇṇasiri1972 2515 BE1973 2516 BEMaha NikayaWat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm
18Somdet Phra Sangharaja Chao Kromma Luang Jinavajiralongkorn (Vasana Vāsano)Vasana NilpraphaVāsano1973 2516 BE1988 2531 BEDhammayuttika NikayaWat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram
19Somdet Phra Sangharaja Chao Kromma Luang Vajirañāṇasaṃvara (Charoen Suvaḍḍhano)Charoen KhachawatSuvaḍḍhano1989 2532 BE2013 2556 BEDhammayuttika NikayaWat Bowonniwet Vihara
20Somdet Phra Ariyavongsagatanana IX (Amborn Ambaro)Amborn PrasatthaphongAmbaro2017 2560 BEPresentDhammayuttika NikayaWat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram