Thai official removed after pressure from Buddhist groups

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Thailand’s junta has removed the head of the national Buddhism office, after religious groups called on the government to sack him over his plans to clean up scandal-hit monasteries.

But Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said it wasn’t a punishment.

Pongporn Pramsaneh, who joined the National Office of Buddhism in February, had vowed to reform Thailand’s more than 40,000 temples.

He wanted to force them to open their finances to the public. They take billions of dollars in donations every year.

Despite high-profile temple scandals over murder, drugs and sex as well as improper financial dealings, Pongporn’s call for change had jarred on some monks.

A group called the Thailand Buddhists Federation submitted a petition to the prime minister’s office this month, calling for Pongporn to be removed to “prevent further damage to monks”.

“He painted monks as villains in Thai people’s eyes,” the group’s secretary-general, Korn Meedee, said in a statement on Facebook.

In July, another Buddhist group had called for Pongporn’s removal, saying he had damaged the Buddhist institution.

The former policeman was appointed amid a standoff between security forces and the influential Dhammakaya temple in February.

Thai security forces besieged the Dhammakaya Temple to try to catch its former abbot, wanted for questioning on money laundering.

They failed to catch him and he is still on the run.

The prime minister said Pongporn  had “got some of the jobs done. He came in to solve temple issues.”

“I’ll now bring him close to me, to help me work on religious reform… This is not a punishment.”

But Phra Buddha Issara, a monk who has  called for reform of Buddhism, said the junta gave in to pressure too easily given government promises to fight corruption.

Source

News category: Asia Pacific.

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