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Crackdown on monks a junta attempt to clean up Sangha

May 25. 2018
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By The Nation

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UNPRECEDENTED police action against high-ranking monks are a part of the junta government’s key initiative to clean up the country’s often-untouchable ecclesiastical sector, according to an informed source.

Officially, senior government figures have maintained that police have simply proceeded in line with the country’s laws. But the well-placed source confirmed yesterday that police had received a tacit green light. 

On Thursday, police raided three temples in Bangkok to arrest seven monks, including three members of the Sangha Supreme Council (SSC) – Phra Phromsitti (Thongchai Sukhayano), Sam Phraya Temple abbot Phra Phromdilok |(Euan Hasadhammo), and Samphanthawongsaram Temple assistant abbot Phra Phrommedhi (Chamnong Dhammajari). 

Never before have SSC members faced such a crackdown. 

Phra Phromdilok, who was arrested and denied bail, has now been defrocked. He has lost all monastic ranks and posts as a result. 

The two other senior monks have fled their temples.

But SSC has already fired all three monks, who are charged with embezzling state funds for temples. 

“The government hopes to improve the Sangha circles,” according to the source. 

It said the investigations into state-provided temple funds were only one part of the effort related to the government’s key policy. 

Other parts include the blacklisting of monks and novice monks showing “inappropriate” behaviour. 

“The blacklist has included the names of more than 100 monks [and] novice monks,” the source continued. 

Also on Thursday, Onoi Temple’s abbot and founder Phra Buddha Isara was arrested, defrocked and sent to jail over charges that he had led demonstrators in assaulting two policemen and snatching away their guns in 2014, and he had made unauthorised use of the initials of royals for amulet-making. 

The source continued that in implementing the policy to clean up the Sangha circles, some structural reforms would also take place. 

“It’s time to stop nepotism inside temples and regulate temple funds,” the source said. “A special work panel will be established to handle these operations in collaboration with relevant agencies, particularly the National Buddhism Office.” According to the source, it is apparent that some monks – apart from taking state funds – have taken donations as their own personal assets. 

“Abbots now have the mandate to name a layman manager for their temples. These managers can stay in the post for an indefinite time, with everything depending on the abbots’ decision. It should be noted that several temples have assets of well over Bt1 billion,” the source said. 

The source also divulged that Phra Phromsitti, Phra Phromdilok, and Phra Phrommedhi were close to Phra Dhammachayo, the controversial former abbot of Dhammakaya Temple. The Dhammakaya Temple has long been controversial, as |critics believe it encourages Buddhists to donate to make merit. 

Phra Dhammachayo went on the run last year after police tried to arrest him on charges of money laundering. 

Billions of baht from a cooperative were transferred to the temple and Phra Dhammachayo as donations, with the cooperative members bearing the brunt of the loss, a probe found. 

 

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