'Difficult to defrock' Phra Dhammajayo

'Difficult to defrock' Phra Dhammajayo

Sangha to be asked to probe monk's conduct

The National Office of Buddhism will request the Sangha Supreme Council to begin 'a time-consuming process' to investigate the actions of sect leader and fugitive monk Phra Dhammajayo, which could eventually lead to his defrocking. (Photo via YouTube)
The National Office of Buddhism will request the Sangha Supreme Council to begin 'a time-consuming process' to investigate the actions of sect leader and fugitive monk Phra Dhammajayo, which could eventually lead to his defrocking. (Photo via YouTube)

The director of the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) will today ask the Sangha Supreme Council (SSC) to consider whether former Wat Phra Dhammakaya abbot, Phra Dhammajayo, breached the monastic disciplinary code of conduct and should be defrocked.

However, the NOB director admitted that it is not easy to defrock the controversial monk as the defrocking process is time-consuming.

Pol Lt Col Pongporn Pramsaneh, the NOB's newly appointed chief, told the Bangkok Post he will present investigation reports on a money-laundering case against the former abbot at the SSC meeting today.

The SSC will consider whether and how the monk's alleged criminal offence has breached the monastic disciplinary code of conduct.

Phra Dhammajayo is wanted under arrest warrants for involvement in money laundering and receiving stolen assets in connection with the multi-billion-baht embezzlement at Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC), and forest encroachment by branches of the temple in several provinces.

He has failed to answer any of the charges and ignored summonses and arrest warrants for about a year.

However, Pol Lt Col Pongporn said today's SSC meeting is not a procedure to defrock the former abbot.

The defrocking of the monk must proceed under a procedure, known as Nikhahakam, which authorises the clergy to determine how to punish a monk who violates the clergy's code of conduct, Pol Lt Col Pongporn said.

"The monastic procedure will take quite some time. At least, Phra Dhammajayo must be given fairness and be allowed to defend himself," Pol Lt Col Pongporn said.

But Mano Laohavanich, a former top-ranking monk at Wat Phra Dhammakaya and a former close aide to Phra Dhammajayo, said Thursday he was dismayed by the NOB director's suggestion that defrocking the former abbot may have to be delayed further.

Mr Mano said he was concerned that the SSC would pay no attention to calls for Phra Dhammajayo to be defrocked.

Phra Phayom Kalayano, abbot of Wat Suan Kaew in Nonthaburi, who is widely respected, called on members of the SSC to protect Buddhism and stop supporting Phra Dhammajayo who "has been wielding influence" for decades.

"I want you to act for the sake of Buddhism and not to support certain people because they are already tainted ones. If you still keep them in the monkhood, they will also tarnish your names," Phra Phayom said.

Pol Lt Col Pakorn Sucheewakul, the head of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) team probing Wat Phra Dhammakaya's money trail in connection with the KCUC scandal, said he has provided the NOB with information on the money laundering and receiving stolen assets case against Phra Dhammajayo.

He also said he explained to the NOB that the former abbot's alleged offence of receiving stolen assets should serve as a justification for defrocking the monk.

Pol Lt Col Pakorn said he had asked the NOB to submit the matter to the SSC to consider action against the former abbot.

Officials from the Anti-Money Laundering Office (Amlo) reported findings Thursday on the money-laundering case to the NOB. Amlo officials have frozen four bank accounts with more than 50 million baht which belong to Phra Dhammajayo and Wat Phra Dhammakaya's foundations.

Meanwhile, Phra Sanitwong Wuthiwangso, head of the communications office of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, was granted bail, with 400,000-baht collateral, by the Criminal Court Thursday.

The monk surrendered to the Crime Suppression Division after a court warrant was issued for his arrest on Wednesday.

He was charged for defaming the DSI, inciting unrest in breach of Section 116 of the Criminal Code and violating the Computer Crime Act.

Winyat Chartmontree, the monk's lawyer, filed his bail request, offering a 600,000-baht surety.

The court granted bail, but only asked for 400,000 baht in collateral, on the condition the monk does not impede the work of the authorities or incite public unrest. He is also prohibited from travelling abroad without court permission.

Meanwhile, Phra Thattacheevo, the deputy abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Pathum Thani, has been stripped of the monastic title of Phra Ratchapawanajarn, effective from Tuesday.

A royal command demoting Phra Thattacheevo was published in the Royal Gazette on Wednesday, countersigned by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

It said Phra Thattacheevo had committed malfeasance by providing shelter for a criminal suspect and investing the temple's money in the stock market in violation of Section 157 of the Criminal Code.

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