DSI to determine in month if top monk nominee's car legal

DSI to determine in month if top monk nominee's car legal

Woranan Srilam, director of special cases, left, and temple treasurer Damkoeng Jindara talk to the press in front of the disputed Mercedez-Benz at Wat Pak Nam Phasi Charoen on Tuesday. (Photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)
Woranan Srilam, director of special cases, left, and temple treasurer Damkoeng Jindara talk to the press in front of the disputed Mercedez-Benz at Wat Pak Nam Phasi Charoen on Tuesday. (Photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) will conclude in a month whether the vintage Mercedes-Benz at the heart of a tax-fraud scandal allegedly involving the supreme patriarch nominee was obtained illegally.

DSI officials on Tuesday went to see the car at Wat Pak Nam Phasi Charoen in Bangkok, where Somdet Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn is the abbot following an invitation from the temple's treasurer.

The vehicle is kept with two other vintage Mercedes sedans and other collectibles in a temple museum. Opponents of the nominee raised doubts about its acquisition, the import of which was allegedly falsified to avoid high taxes.

DSI executives accepted documents concerning the car. Pol Maj Woranan Srilam, DSI's director of special cases, said that the department would seek information from the Customs, Excise and Land Transport departments to determine if the car actually had been reassembled from imported used parts as claimed.

The department would question all persons connected to the vehicle, including the owner, he said.

Damkoeng Jindara, the treasurer, said the abbot had received the car as a gift and had not bought it. He also said that it had been imported in 2011, but he refused to name the donor or elaborate on the import procedures.

He said that the findings of the DSI would be respected.

Also on Tuesday, representatives of ten Buddhist organisations met the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA) at parliament to oppose the nomination of Somdet Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn.

Leading the groups, Busaba Tuangthong said the nominee should have been a senior monk who had followed Buddhist rules, been acceptable to all groups of monks and Buddhists, and had an untarnished reputation. But the nominee has been criticised for allegedly supporting the business of Wat Phra Dhammakaya; protecting its abbot, Phra Dhammachayo; and collecting luxury cars.

She also said that the Sangha Supreme Council raised suspicions by selecting the nominee in a secret meeting earlier this month. The position of the supreme patriarch was the highest post in Buddhism and selection of a new chief should have been done openly, she said.

Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Phra Dhammachayo have faced allegations of misconduct, distorting Buddhist teachings while raising donations, and being involved in the multibillion-baht fraud at Thailand's largest cooperative, Klongchan Credit Union.

In addition, the Sangha Supreme Council chaired by Somdet Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn refused to heed letters sent by the late supreme patriarch recommending that Phra Dhammachayo be defrocked due to gross misconduct.


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