Sangha has no right to pick new Patriarch: ombudsman

national March 04, 2016 01:00


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New demand that supporters of Somdej Chuang take down advocacy banners.

THE OFFICE of the Ombudsman has ruled that the Sangha Supreme Council (SSC) does not have the mandate to nominate Somdej Chuang as the country’s top monk. 
The office is expected to officially announce its ruling soon. 
“The nomination process must be initiated by the prime minister as per the Sangha Act. It’s just that the nomination has to be approved by the SSC,” former senator Paiboon Nititawan said yesterday. 
Paiboon, who previously chaired a reform committee on Buddhist affairs, and Dr Mano Laohavanich have called on the Ombudsman’s Office to interpret the Sangha Act’s Article 7 after the SSC issued a resolution nominating Somdej Chuang, or Somdej Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn, as the new supreme patriarch. 
Surrendering the Benz
The post has been vacant since Somdej Phra Nyanasamvara passed away in 2013. 
Somdej Chuang, now acting supreme patriarch, has both supporters and opponents. His path towards the post has been shaky due to several scandals, including the fact that he has an allegedly illegal Mercedes-Benz in his possession. 
Paiboon said yesterday that the ombudsman had already acted on his petition and that its interpretation went against the SSC’s resolution to nominate Somdej Chuang.
“The power to nominate lies with the prime minister, not the SSC. With this interpretation, it’s clear that the SSC’s resolution is illegal and must be revoked,” he said. 
He said that banners reading “We support the SSC resolution to name Somdej Chuang the country’s 20th Supreme Patriarch” should also be brought down. 
“Don’t promote a illegitimate resolution,” he said. 
Several temples have recently put up the banners to apparently push Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to submit Somdej Chuang’s name for royal endorsement. 
Several other groups are also demanding that Prayut order that the inappropriate banners be brought down because the appointment of the Supreme Patriarch should proceed in line with proper procedures and not be influenced by pressure groups.
Patitta Techaworawat, an adviser to W Thailand, yesterday submitted a petition addressed to Prayut asking him to take action against monks who have been accumulating wealth. 
In a related development, Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya disclosed that a legal team from Wat Paknam had said that Somdej Chuang had expressed his intention to give up the Mercedes-Benz in question.
“The team says he doesn’t want to keep the vehicle anymore and will have it returned to donors,” Paiboon said. 
However, the minister added, Somdej Chuang would still face punishment if he was found to have taken possession of this vehicle illegally. 
“The offence will be punishable regardless of where the problematic vehicle ends up,” he said. 
The Department of Special Investigation, meanwhile, has concluded that the Mercedes-Benz registered under Somdej Chuang’s name is illegal. However, further investigation will be conducted to see if the monk committed wrongdoing.