Suspend deputy, NOB boss told

Suspend deputy, NOB boss told

The National Office of Buddhism (NOB) director has been advised to suspend his deputy after the high-ranking official was accused of being linked to the embezzlement of 13 million baht in maintenance funds for a well-known Ayutthaya temple.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam yesterday suggested NOB director Pongporn Pramsaneh sign a suspension order for Pranom Kongpikul, the office's deputy director who is allegedly embroiled in the scandal at Wat Phanan Choeng.

The temple is among 12 nationwide being investigated for embezzlement of maintenance funds worth 60 million baht dispensed by the NOB.

Mr Wissanu said the suspension can be proposed by two agencies: the NOB, and the Public Sector Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), adding Ms Pranom can also sign an order to suspend herself.

Responding to a query over whether Pol Lt Col Pongporn was trying to be fair to Ms Pranom and this is the reason he has not yet signed the suspension order, Mr Wissanu said the public should wait for the probe results to see how many people were involved in the scandal.

Pol Lt Col Pongporn might want to wait for a clear answer before making a decision, he added.

Asked whether the government was ready to approve the suspension of Ms Pranom, Mr Wissanu said the decision will be based on whether officials hinder the investigation.

Meanwhile, Pol Lt Col Pongporn said he had had limited authority over Ms Pranom and another official involved in the scandal until grounds were raised by PACC.

Besides Ms Pranom and the second official, two other former NOB officials have also been linked to the embezzlement.

The two are Nopparat Benjawattananan, a former NOB director who has retired, and a former official who has already resigned from his post.

Speaking about the temple embezzlement scandal on Wednesday, PM's Office Minister Ormsin Chivapruck said he had instructed the NOB to request an investigation report on the case from the Counter Corruption Division which earlier brought embezzlement charges against the NOB officials.

The accused officials must turn themselves in to police to acknowledge the charges as well, he said, adding legal action must be taken against Mr Nopparat as he was a retired officer and a disciplinary probe was not required for him.

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