“It affected our image. Buddhism is a peaceful religion, and a temple must remain a peaceful place.”
Disagree with this, there is a time for peace and a time for action. When things like this are going on:
“First Muslim people came to our village and asked to buy our land,” says Suphorn Nison, a soft-spoken Buddhist in his mid-40s. “But they became less diplomatic when Buddhist people declined to leave.” The following month, Nison says, two men entered a convenience store operated by Nison’s father and executed him with two shots to his head. Nison claims the gunmen were Muslim and intended to send a stern message. Most Buddhists in his village left, but those who stayed, including Nison, formed a neighborhood-security force.
It's time for action and i doubt anyone with any sense will think less of them for arming themselves in this situation.
The military are the ones protecting Buddhist temples and compounds, Buddhist temples and compounds tend to make for very good bases due to their design and construction and the military fortifying them offers a sanctuary for those who need it and obviously stops attacks against symbolic Buddhist structures which would be a target if the military wasn't protecting them. As for monks taking up arms or soldiers becoming a hybrid warrior monk it's up to them, don't think the fact they are monks should in anyway make it less ok for them to defend themselves and their people.
The problem with Thai Buddhism is that it's about as Buddhist as God is. The culture towards Buddhism in Thailand is a bizarre one that focuses intently on the very faux pas and idolatry that the Buddha denounced, with very little legitimate study. So I wouldn't take much notice of these particular Buddhist monks.
If you're interested, have a read of this book (The Broken Buddha), written by a Buddhist monk.