Ex-Golden Mount abbot gets suspended sentence

Ex-Golden Mount abbot gets suspended sentence

Thongchai Sukkho, 64, former abbot of Golden Mount temple, arrives at the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)
Thongchai Sukkho, 64, former abbot of Golden Mount temple, arrives at the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases in Bangkok on Wednesday. (Photo by Somchai Poomlard)

A former abbot of Wat Sa Ket (Golden Mount) was sentenced to a suspended jail term of 36 months and fined 27,000 baht for embezzlement of 69.7 million baht in temple funds.

The sentence was handed down at the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases on Wednesday. The court found Thongchai Sukkho, 64, former abbot of the famous Buddhist temple in Bangkok known as Phra Prom Sitthi, guilty of malfeasance.

Public prosecutors earlier told the court that Thongchai conspired with former officials of the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) to funnel 69.7 million baht for Buddhism promotion and Buddhist training to Wat Sa Ket, the only temple to receive such an amount from the office's 5.36-billion-baht budget in 2016. The court found that the money was embezzled for personal use.

However, the court suspended the former abbot's jail term for two years because he had promoted Buddhism and never previously breached Buddhist rules.

Thongchai was among several former members of the Sangha Supreme Council arrested in 2018 for temple fund embezzlement.

The same case also involved four other defendants who were executives of the National Office of Buddhism: Former NOB director Phanom Sornsilp, 60, former NOB deputy director Chayapol Pongseeda, 64, former NOB director for Buddhism promotion Narongdet Chaiyanet, and former NOB academic official Pattana Su-ammatmontree, 50. Phanom was sentenced to two years and 12 months and the three other defendants to three years and 18 months.


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