Manas faces bap­tism of fire

Bangkok Post - - SPOTLIGHT -

Ob­servers mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion in the Thai Bud­dhist clergy have lit­tle con­fi­dence in the newly ap­pointed di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Of­fice of Bud­dhism (NOB).

Ques­tions have been raised as to whether the new NOB chief will mea­sure up to the task of in­ves­ti­gat­ing cor­rup­tion and mal­prac­tice in Bud­dhist or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing the NOB and tem­ples, par­tic­u­larly al­le­ga­tions of cor­rup­tion in­volv­ing the NOB’s grant-in-aid scheme for tem­ples na­tion­wide.

On Tues­day the cabi­net ap­pointed Manas Tarat­jai, di­rec­tor-gen­eral of the Reli­gious Af­fairs Depart­ment, the new NOB di­rec­tor to re­place Pong­porn Pram­saneh who was trans­ferred to the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice to be­come an in­spec­tor-gen­eral.

PM’s Of­fice Min­is­ter Orm­sin Chivapruck re­port­edly pro­posed his trans­fer and his suc­ces­sor to the cabi­net.

But ob­servers noted that Mr Manas has no proven track record in­ves­ti­gat­ing mal­prac­tice and graft.

There­fore, when PM’s Of­fice Min­is­ter Orm­sin Chivapruck vouched for him and gave his as­sur­ances that Mr Manas has what it takes to con­tinue the graft probe, no one gave them any cre­dence.

In­stead, the choice of Mr Manas is widely be­lieved to sup­port the Sangha Supreme Coun­cil (SSC), a source said, adding that the trans­fer of Pol Lt Col Pong­porn may be in­tended to stop the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the al­leged em­bez­zle­ment of tem­ple funds.

Based on in­for­ma­tion by Pol Lt Col Pong­porn, the of­fice pro­vides grant-in-aid for Bud­dhist tem­ples na­tion­wide to the tune of about four bil­lion baht a year.

The bud­get is al­lo­cated to four main ar­eas. The of­fice al­lo­cates 500 mil­lion baht for the main­te­nance of tem­ples, 1.9 bil­lion baht goes to­ward sup­port­ing reli­gious ed­u­ca­tion among Thai monks and a sum of 600 mil­lion baht goes to­ward pro­mot­ing reli­gious ac­tiv­i­ties aimed at pro­mot­ing Bud­dhism.

About one bil­lion baht goes to a per­sonal al­lowance fund for monks.

At the cen­tre of the scan­dal are the first three cat­e­gories.

Pai­boon Ni­titawan, former se­na­tor and ex-mem­ber of the de­funct Na­tional Re­form Coun­cil, said he has mon­i­tored bud­get al­lo­ca­tions for at least three well-known tem­ples whose ab­bots are mem­bers of the SSC.

The bud­get al­lo­ca­tions at the cen­tre of con­tro­versy are the 600-mil­lion-baht bud­get aimed at pro­mot­ing Bud­dhism and the bud­get that sup­ports reli­gious ed­u­ca­tion, Mr Pai­boon said.

He claimed that the tem­ples in ques­tion re­ceived the bud­get al­lo­ca­tions but failed to show any proof of bud­get spend­ing.

Re­gard­ing the bud­get to sup­port reli­gious ed­u­ca­tion among monks, Mr Pai­boon said some tem­ples re­quested bud­get al­lo­ca­tion to sup­port the so-called “scrip­ture schools” they claim to be run­ning but checks found that no such schools ac­tu­ally ex­isted.

For tem­ples which op­er­ate the schools in their com­pound, some had no stu­dents and still asked for the bud­get al­lo­ca­tion, Mr Pai­boon al­leged, adding these mal­prac­tices had taken place dur­ing the tenures of pre­vi­ous di­rec­tors of the NOB be­fore Pol Lt Col Pong­porn was ap­pointed as of­fice chief.

“Monks who re­quested such bud­get al­lo­ca­tion com­mit­ted a gross vi­o­la­tion of the Bud­dhist monas­tic code of con­duct, and must be de­frocked. They are tem­ple ab­bots,” Mr Pai­boon said.

“I be­lieve this is a rea­son for the trans­fer of the NOB chief [Pol Lt Col Pong­porn] so as to end the in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Mr Pai­boon said.

He added that the gov­ern­ment must clar­ify the mat­ter and not “sweep the mess un­der the car­pet” with Pol Lt Col Pong­porn’s trans­fer.

Pong­porn: Trans­ferred but not happy

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Thailand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.