Lines drawn in Bud­dhist bat­tle over tem­ple funds


A civil group in Khon Kaen province yes­ter­day asked the prime min­is­ter to pro­tect the head of the Na­tional Of­fice of Bud­dhism, who is tak­ing flak from other clergy af­ter seek­ing le­gal ac­tion against five se­nior monks over their al­leged roles in a tem­ple fund em­bez­zle­ment scan­dal.

Led by Tul Prasert­sil, the group call­ing it­self Khon Kaen’s civil cor­rup­tion sup­pres­sion or­gan­i­sa­tion, sub­mit­ted an open let­ter through the NOB’s pro­vin­cial of­fice to Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-o-cha call­ing on him to pro­tect Pol Lt Col Pong­porn Phram­sane, the di­rec­tor of the NOB.

This was seen as a counter move against the “Chao Phut Pha­lang Phaendin Group” (Group of Bud­dhists who are the Power of the Land), which one day ear­lier urged the pre­mier to fire the NOB chief.

The Chao Phut Pha­lang Phaendin Group on Tues­day sub­mit­ted its pe­ti­tion to the po­lice’s Counter Cor­rup­tion Di­vi­sion (CCD), the Na­tional Anti-Cor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion, and the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice ac­cus­ing Pol Lt Col Pong­porn of over­step­ping the NOB’s and his author­ity in lodg­ing the com­plaint against the five monks.

Ac­cord­ing to the group, Pol Lt Col Pong­porn’s ac­tion was tan­ta­mount to malfea­sance be­cause he lacked author­ity to lit­i­gate against the monks, which they said should re­sult in his ouster. The group said the monks can only be in­ves­ti­gated by the Supreme Sangha Coun­cil.

The Khon Kaen group in­ter­preted the move against Pol Lt Col Pong­porn as a threat aimed at de­ter­ring him from prose­cut­ing the cul­prits in the scan­dal.

It called on Gen Prayut, him­self a Bud­dhist, to pro­tect Pol Lt Col Pong­porn from what it de­scribed as “mob rule”, which it said said should not over­shadow the rule of law.

In an ap­par­ent sign of sup­port for the NOB di­rec­tor, Gen Prayut re­sponded that Pol Lt Col Pong­porn had not done any­thing wrong.

“It’s only the be­gin­ning of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that is a pre­lude to the proper ju­di­cial pro­ce­dures [tak­ing the em­bez­zle­ment case to court],” he said. “We need an hon­est and straight­for­ward per­son to han­dle it.”

The monks in ques­tion in­clude three Supreme Sangha Coun­cil mem­bers: Phra Phrom Dilok, ab­bot of Wat Sam Phraya; Phra Prom Methee, as­sis­tant ab­bot of Wat Sam­phan­tha­wongsaram and chief monk of the 4th-7th re­gions; and Phra Phrom Sit­thi, the ab­bot of Wat Saket and chief monk of the 10th re­gion.

The other two are Phra Methee Sut­thikorn and Phra Wi­chit Thamma­porn, both as­sis­tants to the Wat Saket ab­bot.

The five stand ac­cused of si­phon­ing more than 70 mil­lion baht from a Bud­dhist fund for Phra Pariy­ati Dhamma schools.

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