Senior Buddhism executives arrested for alleged fraud

Senior Buddhism executives arrested for alleged fraud

Phanom Sornsilp, yellow shirt, former director-general of the National Office of Buddhism, arrives at the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok after his arrest on Wednesday. (Photo by Wassayos Ngamkham)
Phanom Sornsilp, yellow shirt, former director-general of the National Office of Buddhism, arrives at the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok after his arrest on Wednesday. (Photo by Wassayos Ngamkham)

Police arrested six present and former senior officials of the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) at their homes in several provinces on Wednesday for alleged involvement in the embezzlement of temple funds.

Phanom Sornsilp, former director-general of the NOB, was arrested at his house in Bangkok Boulevard housing estate on Phutthamonthon Sai 4 Road in Samphram district of Nakhon Pathom.

Kaeo Chidtakob, director of the NOB's branch office in Ang Thong province, was arrested in Ang Thong Thani housing estate in Muang district of Ang Thong.

Pattana Su-ammatmontree, former director of the NOB's Nakhon Pathom branch, was arrested at his house in Samphran district.

Boonlert Sopha, former director of the NOB's Lampang branch, was apprehended at his house in Muang district of Kanchanaburi.

Chayapol Pongseeda, former deputy director-general of the NOB, was detained at a house in Saen Rak housing estate in Thawee Watthana district, Bangkok, and Pornpen Kittitrangkun, the NOB's director for administrative development, was also arrested.

Mr Chayapol denied any wrongdoing. He said his arrest might result from his past supervision of a 62-million-baht budget for promotion of Buddhism at Wat Saket (the temple of the Golden Mount) in 2016.

He said he had only been doing his job and had not tried to escape after learning that former senior monks of Wat Saket had been arrested.

The NOB allocates about 5 billion baht to temples nationwide annually. Most of it went to famous temples in Bangkok, Mr Chayapol said.

The six detainees are on a list of 10 people wanted under arrest warrants for alleged temple fund embezzlement. Police sources said the Crime Suppression Division raided 10 locations in Bangkok and other provinces on Wednesday morning.

Four of them were still at large  -- Pranom Kongpikul, director of the NOB's Samut Prakan office; Narongket Chainet, director of the NOB's Singburi office; Wasawat Kittiteerasit, the NOB's director for temple development; and businessman Jessada Wongmek.

CSD commander Maitree Chimcherd said the 10 people were suspected of involvement in fund embezzlement at 10 temples and senior monks had been arrested in relation to irregularities at all those temples.

The people arrested on Wednesday were charged mostly with malfeasance and supporting wrongdoring, Pol Maj Gen Maitree said.



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