DSI launches degrees for cash probe

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has begun an investigation into a limited partnership called World Peace, which has been accused of granting honorary degrees in exchange for cash.

The investigation was launched after the DSI received a complaint from Seksan Prasert, a businessman, claiming that Sawat Banterngsook, who said he was the rector of an online university, had committed such wrongdoings.

However, Mr Sawat denied the allegation and said he is ready to testify before DSI officials if summoned.

DSI director-general Tarit Pengdith said Mr Seksan lodged the complaint with the DSI against the organisation and Mr Sawat after a follower of the now infamous Luang Pu Nen Kham Chattiko, Sukhum Wongprasit, claimed to have received a doctorate degree from the organisation.

Luang Pu Nen Kham, also known as Phra Wirapol Sukphol, of Khantitham forest monastery in Si Sa Ket's Kanthararom district, is now under investigation by the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo).

Amlo has found that about 200 million baht is being circulated on a daily basis from 10 accounts belonging to Phra Wirapol and his close associates.

Mr Tarit said initial investigations found that World Peace has not received authorisation to operate as a university under Section 10 of the Private Higher Education Institute Act.

He said the organisation was registered as World Peace Limited Partnership, but has used the word "university" in its name, logo and other documents.

This may have led the public to believe it is a private university. As such it may have violated sections 22 and 109 of the same act.

World Peace invites people who have done good deeds for society to receive honorary bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees. The only requirement is a payment of between 15,000 and 350,000 baht, entitling the recipient to use the World Peace degree publicly.

Mr Tarit said World Peace operates a website that claims that World Peace University has the same status as other universities in the country. Therefore, it has also violated the Computer Crime Act, the DSI chief said.