The former chief of the National Office of Buddhism has been handed a 20 year prison sentence for the mis-appropriation of temple funds.
Thai PBS World reports that at the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases, Panom Sornsilp was found guilty of graft, along with the former director of the Office of Temple Renovation and Development and Religious Welfare, Wasawat Kittithirasith, who also received a 20 year sentence for similar offences.
The scandal of the mis-use of temple funds first came to light in 2017, when an abbot from a temple in Phetchaburi province, central Thailand, made a formal complaint to the Anti-Corruption Police Command. He claimed his temple had been given a 10 million baht refurbishment grant by the N.O.B. on condition that 75% of the funds be returned to the officials who had helped secure the grant.
The scam involved abbots being offered funding for temple renovations by unofficial “brokers” with connections to some individuals in the N.O.B. In order to receive the funding, abbots had to agree to return most of it to the officials who arranged it, leaving them with only a small percentage of the original grant to use for renovation purposes.
It’s understood some abbots were themselves involved in the scam, pocketing what was left of the funds after money was returned to officials, and spending nothing on temple refurbishment.
Two other men, Mr. Jesada Wongmek and Mr. Charin Mingkwan, accused of approaching temples with offers of funding from the N.O.B. in return for considerable commission, were also sentenced yesterday, receiving six years and eight months and one year and eight months respectively.
Mr Panom, Mr Wasawat and Mr Jesada have also all been ordered to return 12 million baht to the National Office of Buddhism.
SOURCE: Thai PBS World