Govt steers clear of Dhammachayo case

Govt steers clear of Dhammachayo case

Cabinet ministers pose for photograph with the Supreme Sangha Council in September 2014. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha confirms the council has full authority in rulings on monks' issues. (Government House photo)
Cabinet ministers pose for photograph with the Supreme Sangha Council in September 2014. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha confirms the council has full authority in rulings on monks' issues. (Government House photo)

The government has made clear it would have no part in the controversy involving Wat Phra Dhammakaya's abbot Phra Dhammachayo and will limit its role only to dealing with the embezzlement of money donated to the temple.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Tuesday monks had their own administrative body and the government should not interfere with it.

Some groups have called for authorities to have Phra Dhammachayo defrocked for distorting Buddhist teachings and keeping multi-million-baht donations instead of transferring them to his temple.

Apparently referring to the Supreme Sangha Council (SSC), Gen Prayut said that monks were duty-bound to solve problems among themselves and he did not want any religious issue to spark conflicts among people as millions had faith in individual monks.

Although concerned ministries might be able to review allegedly distorted Buddhist teachings, the council's elders have the final say, the prime minister said.

He added the best he could do was to press charges against those involved in the embezzlement at Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative.

Supachai Srisupa-aksorn, former chairman of the biggest cooperative, had transferred over 900 million baht to Wat Phra Dhammakaya and related persons including Phra Dhammachayo. He is a prime suspect in the 12-billion-baht embezzlement case at the cooperative.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam confirmed on Tuesday that by law the SSC was the highest regulatory body of monks and the government could take no action.

The decision on defrocking a monk belongs to the council's elders, he said.

Admitting the sensitivity of the issue, he said some people did not want see the reputation of Buddhist monks tarnished by the misconduct of some while others were too loyal to their monks to listen to destructive information about them.

"The government doesn't want to drive a wedge among the people," he said.

Mr Wissanu dismissed the call of a group of monks and some Buddhists for the dissolution of the National Reform Council's (NRC) Buddhist protection committee which criticised the SSC for protecting the monk status of Phra Dhammachayo.

He said the NRC had formed the committee and the government could not take any action.

Padet Mungthanya, chairman of the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative, also said on Tuesday the cooperative had already filed lawsuits with courts, demanding a return of 937 million baht from Wat Phra Dhammakaya and associates but the temple offered to pay back 200-300 million baht.

Mr Padet said with its wealth, the temple could return all the money and it should do so.

"Our cooperative's senior members are in deep trouble because they lost all their life savings to the embezzlement," he said, adding the members would not accept a partial return.


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