Sangha stonewalls calls to defrock Dhammachayo

national March 07, 2017 01:00

By THE NATION

4,245 Viewed

Council waits for official notice after king strips him of rank on Saturday.



THE secretariat of the Sangha Supreme Council (SSC) has dodged calls for it to defrock Phra Dhammachayo, despite him having been stripped of his monastic rank. 

SSC secretary-general Boonchert Kittitharangkoon refused to comment yesterday on whether the council should disrobe the controversial monk. He said the top Sangha body would enforce the order to strip Phra Dhammchayo of his monastic rank only after it received an official notice.

“We are still waiting for the official notice to arrive,” Boonchert said.

On Sunday, the Royal Gazette announced that HM King Maha Vajiralongkorn had stripped Phra Dhammachayo of his elevated monastic rank effective as of Saturday. 

The King made the move after the Office of the Prime Minister submitted a report that Phra Dhammachayo had refused to turn himself in to face charges of money laundering and accepting stolen items. 

The office asked that Phra Dhammachayo be dismissed from the high monastic rank of Phra Thepyanna Mahamuni.

Boonchert said yesterday his office would demand that Phra Dhammachayo give up the monastic fan associated with the ranking after an official notice arrives from the National Buddhism Office (NBO). “We will write to Phra Dhammachayo, the monastic committee with the supervisory power over him, Dhammakaya Temple and also the NBO Pathum Thani branch to inform them of the defrocking and to take the monastic fan back,” he said. 

For the past few weeks, the huge Pathum Thani-based monastery has been a “controlled area” designated by Article 44 of the interim charter as authorities stepped up efforts to arrest Phra Dhammachayo, now its honorary abbot. 

Paiboon Nititawan, who previously chaired the National Reform Council panel on Buddhism reform, yesterday urged the Sangha Supreme Council to defrock Phra Dhammachayo. “Defrocking will immediately resolve the tense situation at the Dhammakaya Temple,” he said. “People who have rallied round the temple to shield Phra Dhammachayo will then have no excuse to stand up for him. They won’t be able to say they rally to protect a monk or Buddhism when Phra Dhammchayo is defrocked.” 

Monks and lay supporters are staying at the temple – surrounded by police and soldiers – to show unwavering support for the monk and the temple. 

A warrant to arrest Phra Dhammachayo was issued last year but he did not answer summons or acknowledge the charges against him. Authorities believe the former abbot is still at the temple. 

Multiple legal actions

Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, who is also deputy prime minister overseeing security affairs, urged Phra Dhammachayo yesterday to surrender and enter the judicial process. 

Department of Special Investigation (DSI) deputy spokesman Maj-General Woranan Sri-lam said Phra Dhammachayo may have been hiding at the Boonraksa building in the temple compound. Aerial pictures reveal what look like 200-litre oil containers placed around the building and a canal that has recently been dug around the zone. 

National Police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda said police were ready to support DSI operations to search the temple, with more than 350 legal cases pending against the temple and Phra Dhammachayo. 

Many other monks and people associated with the temple are also facing legal actions.

Yesterday a summons was issued for Sorawan Sirisuttarin, known widely as “Auntie Cheng”, who the DSI has given until Thursday to explain why she allowed pro-temple monks and others to stage a protest at her market in Klong Luang district. 

Expressing concerns about potential violence, the National Human Rights Commission yesterday urged officials and the temple to work together and for a search of the temple compound to be conducted in the presence of witnesses. 

The commission added that if a search fails to find the honorary abbot, the order declaring the temple and adjacent areas as a controlled zone should be revoked.