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Ex-monk contrite behind bars

BANGKOK: The former Phra Buddha Isara has vowed not to seek bail until “satisfactory progress” has been made in dealing with those involved in the temple fund embezzlement scandal.

crimecorruptionreligion
By Bangkok Post

Thursday 31 May 2018, 09:13AM


Suwit Thongprasert, then still monk Phra Buddha Isara, was protected by security of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) when photographed at Lumpini Park in March, 2014. Photo: Patipat Janthong

Suwit Thongprasert, then still monk Phra Buddha Isara, was protected by security of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) when photographed at Lumpini Park in March, 2014. Photo: Patipat Janthong

The former monk, who was born Suwit Thongprasert, made the remarks yesterday (May 30) as he used a telephone to communicate with supporters and his lawyer, who visited him at the Bangkok Remand Prison where he has been incarcerated since his arrest last Thursday (May 24).

Among the visitors were key members of the now-defunct People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), such as Sathit Wongnongtoey, Nataphol Teepsuwan, Chumpol Chulasai, Issara Somchai and Wittaya Kaewparada.

“I will remain in prison and will not seek bail until officials make satisfactory progress in bringing those involved in the scandal to justice,” the former monk said.

“My position is clear. I have always opposed those involved ... as well as the monks who benefited,” he said.

He was referring to a scandal involving millions of baht that was siphoned from funds for temple development and Buddhist studies allocated by the National Office of Buddhism (NOB).

Some NOB officials and laymen are among the suspects.

According to investigators, the officials contacted temple abbots to propose funding for projects and demanded kickbacks. The abbots were expected to give them some “change” in exchange for the funding.

During last Thursday’s raids on three temples in Bangkok, five senior monks were arrested in connection with alleged money laundering and the alleged embezzlement of temple funds.

Another senior monk surrendered to police yesterday while the fifth suspect remains at large. Both men faced arrest warrants.

Wearing a white shirt and a pair of white trousers, Suwit had to use a walker as he moved because he was suffering from a herniated disc.

The former monk said he did not hold any grudges over the police’s alleged use of excessive force when they arrested him during last Thursday’s pre-dawn raid at Wat Or Noi in Nakhon Pathom’s Kamphaeng Saen district.

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“They did what they had to do,” he said, adding he was about to go to sleep at around 3am that morning when he heard a rumpus going on outside his kuti (living quarters).

He admitted to be being startled when armed police stormed in and told him to lie down, but insisted the matter should be laid to rest to prevent people from capitalising on or politicising it.

The former monk was charged with running an illegal secret society after his guards beat up two plain-clothes policemen, took their valuables and detained them for questioning during the PDRC’s protests in Bangkok in 2014.

He also faces a charge of forgery for using royal initials without permission when he cast a batch of amulets in 2011, and has since been defrocked.

Mr Witthaya told the former monk via a telephone that Suthep Thaugsuban, the former PDRC leader, wanted to express his moral support.

Suwit replied that he sympathised with the regime.

“Please pass on my moral support to the government and NCPO as they proceed [with running the country],” he said.

“Let’s support the government to work for the sake of the country.”

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha denied being close to the former monk.

Read original story here.

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