Monks revolt against NOB 'malfeasance'
5 top clergy can't be charged, group says
A movement calling itself the Chao Phut Phalang Phaendin Group (Group of Buddhists who are the Power of the Land) began officially challenging the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) yesterday for allegedly overstepping its authority in seeking legal action against five senior monks over their alleged roles in a temple fund embezzlement scandal.
Led by Jaroon Wannakasinanont and Group Captain Winai Sewakawik, the group submitted a petition against Pol Lt Col Pongporn Phramsane, chief of the NOB, with the police's Counter Corruption Division (CCD).
Pol Lt Col Pongporn lodged a complaint with the division against the five monks on April 11.
The group filed similar complaints to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and the Prime Minister's Office, claiming Pol Lt Col Pongporn lacked sufficient authority to litigate against the monks on such grounds.
The monks in question include three Sangha Supreme 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 Buddhism development fund for Phra Pariyati Dhamma schools for Pali and dhamma studies.
According to Mr Jaroon, who cited the 2014 ministerial regulations on the office's organisational chart, it does not have any authority to hold Buddhist monks accountable in any criminal case.
The office instead is duty-bound to support the Sangha body, Buddhist affairs and all other personnel involved in Buddhist religious affairs, said Mr Jaroon.
"The office director's filing of a complaint against these monks has damaged their good reputation and that of the Sangha organisation as a whole, which is tantamount to malfeasance committed by Pol Lt Col Pongporn," said Mr Jaroon.
Meanwhile, PM's Office Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana said he has assigned and fully supports Pol Lt Col Pongporn in chasing down the monks.
"I think he is working within his authority," he said.
The group's move came on the same day the CCD handed the national anti-graft agency more files from its investigation into the third phase of its probe into the temple fund scandal, concerning seven temples.
Pol Col Warayuth Sukkhawat, chief of the division, said additional documents were forwarded to the NACC yesterday because investigators had turned up more suspects.
The CCD on Monday submitted eight files of documents to the NACC.
This is part of a wider probe into 10 temples allegedly involved in the embezzlement of more than 100 million baht from the fund.