By KORNKAMOL AKSORNDEJ
POLICE have summoned four senior monks to answer charges related to a temple-subsidy corruption scandal.
The four monks are Phra Khru Kitti Patcharakhun, abbot of Lard Khae Temple in Phetchabun province and monastic chief of the province’s Chon Daen district; Phra Ratcharattanamuni, assistant abbot at Pichayayatikaram Temple in Bangkok; Phra Thep Sanabodee, abbot of Kawisararam Temple and monastic chief of Lop Buri; and Phra Wisuttiwattanakij, assistant abbot of Ratchasittaram Temple in Bangkok.
“They will be charged with abusing their authority, dereliction of duty and abetting wrongdoing,” Pol Colonel Warayut Suwatthanakul, deputy commander of the National Police Office’s Counter Corruption Division (CCD), said yesterday.
He added that Phra Thep Sanabodee would face an additional charge of faking official documents.
According to the CCD, the four monks and 15 other suspects embezzled state subsidies for 23 temples between 2012 and 2017, causing damages of about Bt140 million.
“We have already informed the Sangha Supreme Council [SSC] and also the National Buddhism Office [NBO] of these monks’ alleged role in the corruption,” Warayut said.
He said the move was meant to trigger criminal proceedings and monastic actions against the offenders.
Among the laymen who were alleged accomplices are NBO’s former directors Phanom Sornsilp and Nopparat Benjawatananan, Sing Buri Buddhism Office staff member Narongdej Chainet, NBO academic Pattana Su-ammartmontri, Buddhist Monastery Division chief Chatchai Chuchau and NBO public works engineer Payong Siluang.
Warayut and CCD chief Pol Maj-General Kamol Reanracha also forwarded their division’s investigation report about the case to the National Anti-Corruption Commission yesterday.
Prime Minister’s Office Minister Omsin Chiwaphruek said authorities would seek arrest warrants if the accused monks failed to answer the summons.
He denied speculation that some SSC members had been involved in the corruption.
“No, I have not received any report that senior monks in the SSC are implicated,” Omsin said.
Initially, the CCD investigated 11 temples and detected irregularities with the amount of embezzled funds estimated to be Bt60 million.
When the investigation expanded further, the department found irregularities at 23 other temples leading to the summonses for the four monks and their alleged accomplices.
To date, six suspects in the case have already come forward to acknowledge the charges but denied wrongdoing.
Phanom also said he was not involved in corruption, although a search of his home last week uncovered gold bars weighing about 1.2 kilograms and worth about Bt1.76 million.