DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER Wissanu Krea-ngam has asked the Sangha Supreme Council (SSC) to publicly release the report on its February 20 meeting when the hot issue related to the Dhammakaya Temple and its abbot, Phra Dhammachayo, was raised.
“Please make it clear to the public what happened during that meeting,” Wissanu said yesterday.
Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha has assigned Wissanu to address this issue.
The premier made the move in the face of intense public uproar after SSC spokesperson Phra Phrom Methi said last Friday the SSC had passed a resolution in favour of Phra Dhammachayo. The monk was previously accused of many wrongdoings, including land ownership.
Wissanu said he would prefer to see SSC’s official statement on the issue.
“At this point, the representative of the National Office of Buddhism has insisted that the SSC did not rule on whether Phra Dhammachayo has already been automatically defrocked [based on a written statement made in 1999 by the then-Supreme Patriarch],” the deputy prime minister said.
He also disclosed that he would oversee relevant authorities’ ongoing work related to the reported Bt937-million donations made by the embezzlement-plagued Khlong Chan Credit Union Cooperative to the Dhammakaya Temple and its abbot.
The cooperative’s former chairman, Supachai Srisupa-aksorn, had donated the money. Now, Supachai is charged with embezzling more than Bt11 billion from the cooperative in the last couple of years.
“I am not going to decide here who is right or wrong. But I will oversee the work to ensure that relevant agencies have proceeded in line with procedures in solving this case,” he said.
Risk of religious war
The National Office of Buddhism, the Anti-Money Laundering Office, the Department of Special Investigation, the National Police Office and the Department of Religious Affairs are all involved in the investigations.
While Wissanu is very cautious in handling the Dhammakaya Temple/Phra Dhammachayo case out of concerns there is a risk of a religious war erupting among Buddhists, he emphasises the need to investigate the financial donations.
“More than 10,000 people are suffering from the apparent embezzlement at the cooperative. The money should be returned,” Wissanu said.
Meanwhile, Khlong Chan Credit Union Cooperative’s new executives have been trying to ask Wat Dhammakaya and its abbot to return the money too.
Paiboon Nititawan, who chairs the National Reform Council’s committee on the protection of Buddhism, said his committee would look into the embezzlement at Khlong Chan Credit Union Cooperative and its donation to the temple.
“In fact, a monk should not amass properties or money,” he said.
Padej Mungthanya, who now heads the cooperative, said yesterday that he had already lodged a complaint with the Thanyaburi Court to demand the Dhammakaya Temple, Phra Dhammachayo and related figures return more than Bt900million that Supachai donated to them using the cooperative’s money.
“The court will arrange mediation sessions in the middle of next month,” he said.