Article 44: Human Rights Violations in the Wat Phra Dhammakaya case

On February 15th, 2017, Thailand’s military government invoked Article 44 against the Dhammakaya Temple, in an effort to search for Most Ven. Dhammajayo and examine all the structures within the temple compound.

Article 44, a clause in the Interim Thai Constitution, known as the “dictator’s law,” grants the military government unlimited powers to enforce any actions they deem necessary without restrictions and repercussions.

The junta has deployed thousands of police and military officers, under Article 44, to besiege the Dhammakaya Temple, blocking entrances, preventing Buddhist monks, novices and lay Buddhist supporters from coming in and out of the temple.

A large number of Thais have lost their right to religious freedom. Monks are prevented from performing their role in teaching and spreading the Buddha’s teachings. Lay Buddhists are not allowed to visit the temple.

How did the junta use Article 44 against the temple?

In the junta’s search for the honorary abbot, Venerable Dhammajayo, the temple gave full cooperation during a three-day search throughout the temple’s compound. Officials inspected every single room of every building in the temple, some as many as 3-4 times. Each time, they found neither the honorary abbot Ven. Dhammajayo nor anything illegal. This has been confirmed in writing and signed by more than ten government officials and monks. Yet, after the search was completed, the government refused to stop.

Instead, thousands of police and military officers were deployed to siege the temple. On top of that, on February 19th, it ordered all monks, novices and lay devotees to leave the temple before 3 p.m. The monks and novices live there. The temple is their home. The lay devotees refused to leave because they are afraid what will be done to the temple, monks and novices when others are not around.

How else has the temple been affected?

  • Security cameras at numerous gates have been vandalized and destroyed by the officers.

  • 98,000 liters of oil, used to fuel the temple’s many vehicles and worth 1.5 million baht (or US$ 43,052), were taken out from storage tanks without the temple’s permission. These tankers also concealed their license plates and company name. DSI officials claimed that the oil siege was evidence for the criminal case proceeding.

  • The officers stepped on the Dhammakaya Cetiya, a stupa where one million Buddha images are enshrined, and which contain relics of the Enlightened, respected by Buddhists worldwide. The area of the stupa they stepped on is reserved for monks. Even lay supporters who donated for the construction have never stepped on the stupa.

  • A total of 569 monks, novices and lay staff were unable to leave the temple to take their Pali-language examination after studying for it for one full year. No drivers of hired transport dare to take them to the examination venue and back, fearing they too will be affected by Article 44.   

  • One lay Buddhist was injured while confronting the officers as she tried to get into the temple. Six of her ribs and one clavicle were broken and there was bleeding in one ear. The first hospital she was sent to refused to admit her, afraid it would be affected by Article 44.   

  • On February 24th, the temple discovered that police and military officers moved two 12-meter-long iron containers to block one of the temple entrances. Despite evidence, the government denies their involvement. All other entries are also being guarded and blocked from entry by officers.

  • Soldiers have ordered temple staff to vacate their residence in the 150 rai area, but the temple refused, so the temple staff moved to the meditation room, an area previously blocked off.

  • At the moment there are about 10,000 Buddhist monks, novices and lay supporters inside the Dhammakaya Temple. The amount of food needed is immense. Yet officials only permit a small amount to enter after searching through it:

    • To illustrate, one truckload of fresh vegetables and one truckload of pork were left to rot because the officers refused to let vehicles deliver food inside the temple.

    • Public donations of 3 tons of pork and 2,000 eggs were taken away by the officers.

    • And on February 28th, officers only delivered 300 lunch boxes of food for the entire monastic community, none for devotees. Not only is that amount of food insufficient, all the 300 boxes of food delivered were inedible. All had gone bad.

    • Even in times of war, delivery of food to civilians is still permitted. Access to food is a basic human right. Even during the Syrian civil war, for example, delivery of food was allowed.

Who has lost their lives?

  • One man committed suicide. Although he was not a follower of the Dhammakaya Temple, he was a Buddhist who strongly disagreed with the government’s use of force and was upset by the implementation of Article 44 against the temple and the way monks were treated.

  • One woman died after suffering an asthma attack. She had contacted a nurse located a mere 10 minutes away who could bring an inhaler to her, but blockage of mobile signals, numerous security checkpoints, and a protocol that required DSI official permission to pass through security checkpoints, led to her untimely death.

We call on the international community to submit a plea to the Thai government to please have compassion for its people, and to give them space to practice peaceful in their homeland. Please immediately withdraw the over 4,000 police and military officers from the temple’s compound, and revoke Article 44.

On February 25, 2017 Wat Phra Dhammakaya devotees unfurl a banner expressing a plea for help to the world: We need food. 

On February 25, 2017 Wat Phra Dhammakaya devotees unfurl a banner expressing a plea for help to the world: We need food. 

Everything you need to know about the Dhammakaya Scandal: A Short Fact Sheet

Updated February 24, 2016.  

This fact sheet is meant to provide the reader with the most crucial information. As this case continues to evolve, this document will be updated with events and facts as they become available. 

Article 44

  • On February 15th, 2017, the Thai Junta invoked Article 44 of the interim constitution to declare WPD a “specially controlled zone,” granting authorities wide and far reaching powers to search Wat Phra Dhammakaya. This was invoked in lieu of the rule of law because no legal rationale exists in the constitution. For 3 days (February 16-18, 2017), DSI, police, and the military forces have raided the temple grounds, barricaded gates, prohibited temple visitors from entering and prohibited food/water from being delivered to the temple premises. As news reports and live feeds have supported, temple officials cooperated with and assisted authorities in their search, which was carried out three times.

  • Despite this the Junta has now gone a step further by issuing an order forcing all non-permanent monks, laity, and visitors to vacate the temple and brought in forces in the thousands to barricade the temple. Businesses and residents in neighboring areas have also been prohibited from entering their businesses and homes, even though their structures are outside the “specially controlled zone.” After searching the temple premise three times and not being able to find their “person of interest,” on February 22, 2017, DSI demanded they be permitted to search the property again, but temple devotees refused because they suspect the government to have other intentions. The Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha even admitted that WPD was declared a “restricted zone” to enable officials to carry out a search and not for the arrest of the abbot.

  • On February 24, 2017, the Thai junta cut off mobile internet service, preventing reporters from transmitting live reports from the area. 

The bottom line is DSI’s motivations should be questioned. DSI claims that Ven. Dhammajayo must be present for the case to move forward in court, but temple devotees believe that is merely an excuse to seize and dismantle the temple, as he could actually be tried in absentia.

 

How did this all start?

In a case opened in 2016, the honorary abbot* of Wat Phra Dhammakaya (WPD), Phrathepyanmahamuni (Most Venerable Dhammajayo), has been accused of crimes he did not commit—money laundering and receiving stolen money— by Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI).

Where did these funds come from?

From 2009 - 2011, the former chairman of Klongchan Credit Union (KCUC) gave 11.3 billion baht to various temples, organizations, and charities, using KCUC cheques. Of the 11.3 billion baht, 8.2% (932 million) was donated to the abbot and Wat Phra Dhammakaya.

Did the abbot receive stolen money?

No, he did not. Obviously, to have received stolen money, the money in question has to be stolen. However, whether or not the money was actually stolen has not yet been determined* that case is still in court. How can you file a case against someone based on “evidence” that hasn’t been proven to be true?

Did the abbot launder money?

No, he did not. To have laundered money, the abbot had to have (1) known the money was stolen, (2) masked the money trail by putting the money through a series of transactions, and (3) returned the money to the former chairman. All three conditions need to be met for the act to be considered money laundering. However, none of this happened.

How do you know none of this happened?

To address (1), there is no possible fact-based way to prove that the abbot had no knowledge. However, the lack of evidence to show that he did have knowledge indicates his innocence. Regarding (2) and (3), the Anti-Money Laundering Office traced all cheques involved and found a clear money trail, and confirmed that no money was ever returned to the former chairman.

How did the abbot receive the money?

The abbot received this and other donations in a public area, in front of a crowd of people, which was broadcasted live on satellite TV. No concealment was attempted and the source of funds is not known. He never handled the money - all donations were processed and managed by the temple’s finance department.

What did the abbot do with the money?

All donated money went toward building religious structures for Buddhism and society. Not one single baht of cash was ever withdrawn from the Abbot’s account. In 2013, the Anti-Money Laundering Office traced all checks involved and found a clear money trail, dismissing any money laundering accusations.

Why is the victim, KCUC, not involved in the current lawsuit?

Temple devotees raised 684 million (same amount being investigated) and gave it to the credit union to help return it to normal operations. Additional funds are being raised to bring the total amount of the emergency relief fund to 932 million baht. The credit union withdrew all civil and criminal charges, and presented a letter of appreciation to the temple devotees. Condition: If the money is later found to be legally acquired by the chairman, then the credit union agrees to return the relief funds.

The abbot is clearly innocent, yet DSI continues to pursue criminal charges against him in a manner that has been suspicious, unjust, and illegal. Here are just a few examples:

  • The 1st summons was leaked to the press instead of delivered to the Abbot, an unethical move for any legal sector in any government.

  • For the 2nd summons, the Abbot requested postponement due to illness. DSI granted it, but then went back on their word, subsequently seeking an arrest warrant that was later denied by the courts.

  • DSI taped the 3rd summons to the temple’s main gate with instructions that no one remove it. The temple asked DSI to read the Abbot his charges at the temple due to his deteriorating health, but DSI stated it would be illegal to do so. However, a Thai Deputy Prosecutor later came out to confirm that the temple’s request is indeed legal and valid.

  • DSI also suspended the license of the Abbot’s physician who verified his illness. Yet, DSI refused to allow impartial physicians to carry out the “proper” medical verification. The Medical Council of Thailand later confirmed the validity of the medical certificate.

  • DSI formed and headed a committee with impartial monastic authorities (National Office of Buddhism and the provincial monastic chief) to negotiate, coordinate, and move the lawsuit forward. DSI failed to hold their end of the deal and said later the outcomes of the committee meetings had no bearing on the lawsuit.

  • To raid the temple and arrest the Abbot, DSI prepared 2,200 police force and SWAT units, armoured trucks, military equipment, drones, a helicopter, and consulted an outspoken critic.

  • DSI is selectively prosecuting only the Abbot, without investigating any of the other check recipients (worth about 10 billion baht) that could help the Credit Union return to full operation.

Part 2: Forest Encroachment

Did Wat Phra Dhammakaya properties encroach on reserved forests (Loei Province)?

DSI alleged Suan Pa Himmawan Meditation Retreat Center (Phu Reua, Loei, Thailand) encroached on reserved forest lands. To substantiate their claims, they hired an aerial-photograph reading expert, who has a previous criminal record for corruption, who interpreted the map as showing forest encroachment. However, any amateur could clearly see from the maps that the retreat center does not overlap with reserved forest.

Did Wat Phra Dhammakaya properties encroach on reserved forests (Nakhon Ratchasima Province)?

DSI alleged World Peace Valley Meditation Retreat Center (Khao Yai, Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand) encroached on reserved forest lands. Background: This land was originally purchased through a broker who negotiated for its purchase from all the owners. When DSI learned that some of land parcels lacked official title deeds, they alleged that the retreat center encroached on reserved forests and national park lands. However, if one were to examine an aerial map of the area, one can clearly see the retreat center lands are not part of the national forest, or national park, and does not belong to the Agricultural Land Reform Office. This was confirmed by the local authorities who issued the construction permit from the very beginning. A proper title deed exists for this property.  

Why are there arrest warrants out for the abbot?

  • The abbot was summoned for questioning about both allegations of forest encroachment, but was unable to travel due to prolonged illness as mentioned in Part 1. After not appearing for the summonses DSI sought arrest warrants for not appearing. This is in spite of DSI knowing well beforehand that he could not make it due to illness and has refused the perfectly legal request to question him at the temple.

  • In short: DSI ordered summonses and refused to question the abbot at the temple, knowing he couldn't make it so they could have an excuse to get arrest warrants.

  • Given that DSI is a unit of the Department of Justice, there is good reason to believe that a fair trial won’t take place, which is why the Abbot’s supporters won’t let him appear before the courts. It is legal and normal procedure for DSI to question a suspect at their location if they are unable to appear for questioning elsewhere yet they insist on getting an arrest warrant instead. The probable reason for this is if he is jailed he will be forced to disrobe before trial and will permanently lose his seniority and the monastic titles, he has earned during his 47 years of monkhood, including his title as abbot and will have to ordain again as a brand new monk even if later proven innocent!

Other points of consideration

  • Suan Pa Himmawan belongs to WPD and has assigned a caretaker who is responsible for managing the retreat center. Essentially, anyone representing the temple could have been asked to come in for questioning, but they insisted that the abbot must be present to answer these questions as well.

  • This retreat center had initially been owned by the abbot and was transferred to the temple in 1999. In total, the abbot and temple have owned the property for over 20 years. If the forest lands were indeed encroached on, why is there a land title for the property? Why are they just bringing up these charges now?

Other developments

  • The Office of the Attorney General postponed their indictment decision four times due to lack of evidence. They were scheduled to deliver their findings on November 30, 2016. However, they abruptly moved the press conference forward by a week and gave an unsolicited press conference stating their opinion to file charges against the abbot.

  • On December 26, 2016, at the request of DSI, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission shut down Dhamma Media Channel (DMC.TV), the temple’s 24-hour television / satellite station, indefinitely, citing inappropriate content and being a threat to national security. This station regularly broadcasts programming for all ages such as guided meditation, dhamma talks, and numerous animated programs teaching the scriptures.

* On December 5, 2016, Ven. Dhammajayo (Phrathepyanmahamuni) was appointed Honorary Abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya by the chief provincial monk under Section 39 of the Sangha Act, relieving him of all administrative duties related to his previous position. Phravidesbhavanajarn (Ven. Somboon Sammapunyo) has been appointed as the temple’s acting abbot by the chief monk of the subadmin govt.

*As this case continues to evolve, this document will be updated with events and facts as they become available.

**There is a common misconception that the money involved has already been declared illegal due to the complexities of the charges against the former chairman (Mr. Supachai Srisupa-aksorn) for embezzling money. It has been circulating in the media that he has been already been convicted of embezzling money and sentenced to 16 years. However, that case is for an unrelated 22 million baht, in the first of seven cases being brought against him. The case against Ven. Dhammajayo and Wat Phra Dhammakaya is amongst the remaining six still awaiting trial. For a chart, click here.

On February 23, 2017, the military advance into Wat Phra Dhammakaya property, on land where the new temple hospital will be built. Buddhist monks and temple devotees rushed to block soldiers from advancing any further. 

On February 23, 2017, the military advance into Wat Phra Dhammakaya property, on land where the new temple hospital will be built. Buddhist monks and temple devotees rushed to block soldiers from advancing any further. 

March 2015 Statement by Mr. Supachai Srisupa-aksorn

Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Phrarajbhavanavisudh are unaffiliated with the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative

I, Supachai Srisupa-aksorn, former chairman of the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative, who has been accused of embezzling funds from the cooperative, assert the following:

I would like to maintain that I did not commit the offense as accused in regards to Wat Phra Dhammakaya. The cheques I donated to Wat Phra Dhammakaya, in the sum of 386 million baht, and to Phrarajbhavanavisudh (Ven. Dhammajayo), in the sum of 248 million baht in 2009 and 2010, to be used for the construction of religious facilities, were legally borrowed from the credit union in accordance with its regulations. Both amounts have been fully repaid to the credit union, as examined in that year’s annual audit and board of directors meeting.

In addition, the cheques donated to Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Phrarajbhavanavisudh were not offered to Ven. Dhammajayo one-to-one, in private. Rather, that cheque was placed in an envelope, inside a gold bag, and offered to Ven. Dhammajayo after waiting in line alongside fellow devotees. This money offered was then collected and processed by the temple staff, without Ven. Dhammajayo’s knowledge of the donation amount. This can be verified with the attached photo. 

Thus, I affirm that Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Phrarajbhavanavisudh are unaffiliated with the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative.

Respectfully,

Mr. Supachai Srisupa-aksorn

6th March 2015

Professional Specialist's Personal Opinion on Phra Dhammajayo's Health

The specialist who diagnosed and treated Luang Por Dhammajayo, and issued a medical certificate for his condition, offers his professional opinion on the Abbot's condition. The specialist is currently under investigation for issuing the medical certificate in the hospital's name without the hospital's permission. However, that is only a technicality. His expertise on the field of medicine has not been questioned, as he has many years of practical experience to support him. The following are his words:

There have been questions doubting Most Venerable Dhammajayo’s illnesses. Is he actually Ill? What exactly is he suffering from? Today, I will attempt to explain his medical conditions.  I will be using information from the press release by Wat Phra Dhammakaya, medical certificates that the media publicized without permission on 20th May 2016, and my 20 years of experience as a medical doctor and vascular surgeon.

1. The Abbot has deep vein thromboses (DVT), or occlusions in the popliteal vein, deep/superficial femoral vein, common femoral vein, external/internal iliac vein, and common iliac vein. Magnetic resonance venography (MRV) reveals that the right common iliac artery is putting pressure on and occluding the common iliac vein.  These findings are consistent with iliac vein compression syndrome (May-Thurner syndrome), which is the cause of DVT in this patient.  MRV reveals that the left femoral vein is completely occluded. When a patient has a DVT, the venous system remodels itself to compensate by optimizing smaller, collateral veins to deliver blood back to the heart.  In order to bypass the occluded femoral vein, MRV reveals the development of collateral veins from the left lateral thigh to the left hip and inferior vena cava back to the heart.

2. A secondary complication from long term DVTs is chronic venous insufficiency (CVI).  CVI presents with lower extremity swelling, chronic and acute pain, skin color changes, and thickening and hardening of skin on the legs and ankles (lipodermatosclerosis).  As CVI progresses, venous stasis ulcers may arise on the distal (far) end of the extremities due to lack of blood flow.  The photo shows a venous stasis ulcer near the radial side(change to medial or lateral side, or if you can’t figure it out just say ankle) of the ankle caused by CVI, which is different from a diabetic induced ulcer. Diabetic ulcers are normally located on the bottom of the feet, and present with numbness and tingling of the feet (peripheral neuropathy).  CVI induced venous stasis ulcers allow infection to spread more rapidly to other parts of the body and leg. If the infection is not well contained, or the leg becomes swollen enough to completely block blood flow, the tissues in the leg will necrose and die, ultimately leading to amputation.  As this patient has both diabetes and CVI, venous stasis ulcers become more chronic and harder to heal.  Thus any cut or wound could lead to infection and increase mortality risk.

3. The Abbot has acute collateral venous thromboses present in many locations on the lateral side of the thigh. MRV illustrates this and ultrasound shows the thrombosis in the collateral vein in the same location as in MRV. Ultrasound reveals a new occlusion due to the hypoechoic, or darkened nature, of the clot on the scan.  Newly formed clots make it increasingly more difficult for blood to return to the heart, worsening edema and pain.  Increase in pain, swelling, and darkening of the skin are signs of PCD (phlegmasia cerulea dolens).  PCD can also lead to permanent blockage, necrosis of tissues, (venous gangrene) and possible amputation.

Another fatal complication of DVTs is an acute pulmonary embolism (PE).  A PE occurs when part of a clot breaks off and travels to block the blood vessels in the lungs. If the clot is small enough the effects are minute, but if the clot is large it can cause hypoxia and be fatal.  Fatigue can be one presenting symptom of a PE.  Luang Por Dhammajayo has a history of getting acutely fatigued due to multiple etiologies.  One of these causes could be multiple small pulmonary emboli in his lungs.  The press release did not reveal the results of an MRA of the pulmonary veins (which reveals PEs), thus we cannot exclude this from the Venerable’s list of medical complications.

4. The Abbot is a 72 year old elderly monk whose medical conditions include diabetes mellitus (DM), hyperlipidemia (HLD), and hypertension or high blood pressure (HTN).

About a year ago, I examined a pregnant woman (24+3 weeks of gestational age) who had an acutely swollen leg for one day. The previous day she had gone to see her obstetrician. An ultrasound was performed, and her obstetrician told her she was fine. She wasn’t satisfied, so she came to me for a second opinion. I performed an ultrasound on her vascular system and found a clot in her left leg vein. The image of the clot from the ultrasound was still black (hypoechoic), indicating that it was an acute DVT, and it occluded all the way from the popliteal vein, common/superficial femoral to the common/external iliac vein of the left leg. I referred her back to the obstetrician for treatment. After the delivery, she was fine and recovered fully, but the baby happened to die from a subdural hematoma that could have been caused from anticoagulation medications to slow clotting and internal bleeding (used for DVT prevention).  Both the baby and mother ran the risk of excessive bleeding from anticoagulation.  From this case we are able to understand that anticoagulants do not come without risks, and some medication side effects may be fatal.  No medication is without risk, and in medicine it is the physician’s job to carefully weigh the risk benefit ratio for each individual patient.  This is why medicine is an art, and not a black and white science where one treatment protocol works in every case.

For example, if a patient were forced to walk too soon, a clot that has not firmly attached itself to the vessel walls might break off and travel to the heart, causing a pulmonary embolism (PE), which can be lethal. However, if the patient stays non-ambulatory for a prolonged period of time, this causes muscle atrophy (weakening) and makes the patient more prone to falls and difficulty ambulating.  This is why it is crucial that such a patient is monitored closely and continuously by an experienced team of medical practitioners.

Writing this reminds me of when I was a resident surgeon at Ramathibodi hospital. In my last year as chief resident, a healthy-looking middle aged patient came in with a DVT in his left leg with cellulitis and infection. Almost the whole leg was dark green in color from phlegmasia cerulea dolens (PCD) causing venous gangrene, so he had to have an above the knee amputation. A few days after the amputation, he became extremely lethargic and pulmonary MRI/MRA showed multiple PEs in bilateral lung fields. He died unexpectedly 7 days later. The autopsy report found PEs in his pulmonary arteries along with an antibiotic resistant infection in his leg. The acute cause of death was from a pulmonary embolism. The first time I saw Luang Por Dhammajayo’s left leg, which was very swollen and dark red in color, it reminded me of this very patient. Luang Por Dhammajayo has a very severe condition. During my career as a vascular surgeon, I have never seen a patient with May–Thurners syndrome (complete occlusion of the iliac vein) before.  May-Thurner’s syndrome is very rare and complications of DVT can be life threatening.

In conclusion:

1. The Abbot has complete occlusion of the left common femoral vein from chronic compression by the right common iliac artery (May–Thurner syndrome), making it difficult for blood in the lower extremity to return to the heart.

2. The Abbot has severe chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) of the left leg due to May-Thurners syndrome. His leg is acutely edematous and painful, with venous stasis ulcers. The Abbot is at risk for an infection that may lead to amputation.

3. The Abbot has DVTs, or occlusions in the popliteal vein, deep/superficial femoral vein, common femoral vein, external/internal iliac vein, and common iliac vein. He is at risk for PEs and venous gangrene which also increase the possibility of amputation.

4. The Abbot has chronic medical conditions of diabetes mellitus (DM), hyperlipidemia (HLD), and hypertension or high blood pressure (HTN).  He is also advanced in age, which is always a risk factor for acute and life-threatening medical complications and increased sensitivity to medication side-effects.

5. The Abbot has acute on chronic fatigue due to multiple etiologies.  Multiple minor PEs cannot be ruled out in this patient.  An MRI/MRA would be needed to confirm this diagnosis.

It should be quite clear to everyone whether Luang Por Dhammajayo is ill or not, and what his medical problems are. Therefore it is inappropriate to accuse him of faking any condition, or to assume that his medical certificates are forged. If any governmental agency does not have confidence in my medical abilities and professional opinion, they are welcome to send their own specialists to erase any remaining doubt. The actions that have been done up to this point by the said governmental agency is considered a complete violation of the basic human rights of a patient. I REPEAT. The Abbot is HUMAN.

Thus, I agree with the supporters and followers of Luang Por from all over the world who are petitioning for justice and submitting letters stating that a human rights violation has been made, including his supporters in the United States of America who are collecting names to be presented to the White House. To those who are committing this international crime of violating the human rights of a medically ill person, it's never too late to turn back. It is better to hit the reset button and do the right thing than to simply say we have passed our deadline and cannot undo anything at this time. It is inhumane to view a 72-year-old Buddhist monk who has spent his entire life doing good deeds as an enemy who is undeserving of basic human rights.

Dr. Pairoj Songkunatham MD, Board of Surgery

 

Phrathepyanmahamuni Has Not Received Fair Treatment

Most Venerable Phrathepyanmahamuni (Ven. Dhammajayo) has been ordained as a Buddhist monk for over 46 years and has performed virtuous deeds throughout his life. At the age of 72, he is now in the final stage of his life and his health is failing. Currently, he is being accused of money laundering and accepting stolen property. All these accusations are baseless and demonstrate to the injustice being brought against him in several ways:

  1. It all began when Mr. Supachai Srisupa-aksorn, former chairman of Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC) was suspected of laundering money from the credit union. He wrote a total of 878 cheques to various people and organizations, of which 10 were donated to the Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni. The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) had already investigated this matter with Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni and submitted their findings to the prosecutor. The prosecutor evaluated the case and opted not to press charges against Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni. Then suddenly, a new case with the exact charges was filed, with Ven.  Phrathepyanmahamuni being charged with money laundering and receiving stolen property as well. This was a duplication of the previous case and goes against the law that states: “One count of charge cannot be duplicated.”

  2. Money laundering and accepting stolen property technically occurs if Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni intended to collude with Mr. Supachai Srisupa-aksorn to illegally extract money from KCUC for his own benefit. However, what actually transpired does not support the premise underlying these assumptions: Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni received the donations openly before a crowd of tens of thousands of people. He never saw the cheques. The temple’s financial department staff collected the donated cash and cheques, and deposited them into the bank, subsequently allocating them toward construction costs of religious facilities and various temple expenses as the donors had intended. This information had been previously disclosed to DSI.

  3. The assumption is that Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni colluded with Mr. Supachai to embezzle funds from the credit union. In truth, to do so, they would have had to conceal their illegal activity. Instead, the money can be clearly traced for every transaction, starting with the credit union cheques used as a form of “payment” for donations. Cheques for large sums like these would have certainly been subject to an audit, leading to significant non-liquidity within the credit union. Any person with mal intent seeking to launder money would not have used such transparent methods.  

  4. Moreover, Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni did not withdraw a single baht of cash from his bank account. The cheques donated by Mr. Supachai Srisupa-aksorn had been transferred from Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni’s account in their full amount to pay contractors for the construction of religious facilities, in accordance with Mr. Supachai’s wishes. They were never allocated for Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni’s personal benefit. The transparent money trail had been verified by the Anti-Money Laundering Office and their findings were submitted to DSI.    

  5. Questions have been raised as to why Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni and Wat Phra Dhammakaya were not suspicious of the source of Mr. Supachai’s large donations. In truth, Mr. Supachai donated to other temples, schools, universities, public charities, and government sectors; moreover, his donations were not the largest in sum, compared to donations made by others to Wat Phra Dhammakaya. Mr. Supachai revealed that the funds for his donations were derived from his successful business, so Wat Phra Dhammakaya had no reasons to be suspicious and received the donations in the same manner as any donations by others. When the lawsuit was filed, Mr. Supachai released a statement indicating that he borrowed money from the credit union to make donations to Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni, and already repaid the credit union in full.

  6. Once the lawsuit was filed, supporters of Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni felt a decision left to the court would be exhaustive and credit union members would be in dire straits. They also felt that Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni’s reputation would also be impacted. As a result, they raised a sum of 684.78 million baht and returned it to the credit union. This was an identical amount initially donated by Mr. Supachai to Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni; both parties acknowledged this transaction in court.

    • Afterwards, the credit union withdrew its lawsuit against Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni and Wat Phra Dhammakaya and released a statement indicating their intention not to move forward with both the civil case and the criminal case against Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni and Wat Phra Dhammakaya. They also issued a letter of appreciation to the supporters of Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni who generously raised the full amount of funds to aid the credit union.

      Therefore, Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative didn’t suffer any hardships from Mr. Supachai Srisupa-aksorn’s monetary donations to Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni. The President and Vice President of the Credit Union elected not to proceed with the lawsuit and even issued a letter of appreciation to the temple supporters. However, DSI continues to trump up charges and accusations against Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni. What is the motive behind this? 

  7. DSI issued a summons for Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni to appear before investigators at its headquarters on 25th April 2016. At 11.00 hrs. that day, Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni’s attorney submitted a request for postponement due to the ailments he presented, accompanied by a medical certificate. After the investigators reviewed the request, they informed the attorney at 11.30 hrs. that the postponement was approved. The appearance would be postponed for 10th May 2016. The attorney then departed the DSI HQ. However, at 13.30 hrs, investigators phoned the attorney to inform him that they rescinded the postponement and would seek an arrest warrant, on the grounds that Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni was well enough to make the trip to DSI HQ.

However, DSI did not appoint a physician from the police hospital or any other department to determine whether Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni was truly ill or not. This begs the question: How did DSI know whether or not Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni is ailing? DSI claims that Ven. Phratheypyanmahamuni was fully able to join the ceremony on 22nd April 2016. However, the medical certificate clearly indicates that he was suffering acutely. DSI’s claim is unsupported.

This past year, Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni has been ailing and has not stepped foot outside the temple. He has been suffering from deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in his left leg, which has swelled to twice the size of the right leg; chronic ulcers on the left leg from diabetes; and severe allergies. DSI examined his medical conditions when they met him at the temple last year in 2015, but have yet to make the visit with a physician this year.

Ultimately, the courts made the decision to refuse to issue an arrest warrant on the basis that Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni was not a flight risk.

The following questions remain unanswered:

  1. For what reason weren’t they able to meet him at the temple this time?

  2. Why did DSI alter their words? First, they allowed for a postponement, then rescinded, and then sought an arrest warrant. Why did they go back on their words?

  3. Was an arrest warrant necessary?

  4. Why such aggressiveness with a senior monk who has only done wholesome deeds throughout his life?

  5. Millions of Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni’s supporters are utterly perplexed.

Q&A: Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative

1. Does Wat Phra Dhammakaya have any complicity in Mr. Supachai Srisupa-aksorn’s alleged embezzlement of Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC) funds?

A:  Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni have zero involvement in the alleged embezzlement. After the allegations were made, the Temple asked Mr. Supachai regarding the source of the funds, and he disclosed that he had taken out a loan from KCUC and repaid it.

2.  Were any suspicions raised when donations in the amount of hundreds of millions of baht were being offered?

A:  Mr. Supachai is not the biggest donor at Wat Phra Dhammakaya; there are other generous donors who donate greater sums. When he came to offer these large donations he indicated a few business and mining investments of his were highly profitable, thus giving the Temple no reason to be suspicious.  

3.  What did Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni and Wat Phra Dhammakaya do with the donations?

A:  The entire donation was allocated toward the construction of religious facilities according to the donor’s wishes. Since a great number of people participate in mass meditation at Wat Phra Dhammakaya, up to a million on special events, it was necessary to have facilities that can accommodate those in attendance.

4.  Why did Wat Phra Dhammakaya return the donation, in the amount of 684 million baht, to Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative?

A:  Wat Phra Dhammakaya received these donations with transparency and in good faith, and subsequently allocated all the funds toward the construction of religious facilities in accordance with the donors’ wishes. When the lawsuit was filed, supporters of Wat Phra Dhammakaya realized if the case were to go to court, the trial would be exhaustive, affecting the reputation of the Temple and Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni, and bringing hardship to credit union members of the credit union. Therefore, funds to compensate the credit union members in the full amount that Mr. Supachai donated to the Temple and Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni was established by the Temple supporters.

5.  What is the Temple’s current relationship with KCUC?

A:  The credit union issued a letter of appreciation to the supporters of Wat Phra Dhammakaya for their compassion in raising the funds to aid the credit union and its members. The supporters did not have any legal obligations to return any of the funds since the donations were received with transparency and allocated toward religious structures as the donors had intended.

Mr. Supachai had also offered donations to other temples, schools, and many other organizations; they have yet to return their donation to the credit union in any way.

6.  The general public believes that donations made to temples should be more transparent and include the source of each donation. Does Wat Phra Dhammakaya agree with this view?

A: Temples, organizations, or various foundations rely on donations to operate. Therefore, questioning the donors about the origin of their donations would be extremely impolite and inappropriate. In practice, this idea would be quite difficult to implement. However, the Temple agrees with having as much transparency as possible and invites every sector to propose a solution that is practical that benefits all parties involved.

Wat Phra Dhammakaya Denies All Allegations: Phrathepyanmahamuni has Performed Good Deeds for Over 50 Years

According to the news, Thailand's Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has summoned Venerable Phrathepyanmahamuni (Luang Por Dhammajayo) to acknowledge allegations that he has committed wrongdoings by conspiring to launder money and to receive stolen property. Wat Phra Dhammakaya affirms Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni’s innocence and denies all such allegations.

The real Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni

Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni (72), Abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, began studying Dharma in 1963 while he was a freshman at Kasetsart University. He practiced meditation with Khun Yai Chand Khonnokyoong, top disciple of Luangpor Sodh, the famed Abbot of Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen, without missing a day even during final exams at the university. Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni graduated from Kasetsart in 1969 with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics. He took the saffron robe to become a Buddhist monk for life at Wat Paknam in 1969, whereupon, he was given a monastic name, “Dhammajayo".

In 1970, one year after Ven. Dhammajayo’s ordination, Lady Prayad Pattayapongsavisuttatibodi donated 78 acres of land at Klong Sam Precinct, Klong Luang District, Pathumthani Province, to the group to build a Buddhist temple. Ven. Dhammajayo and his team spearheaded the development and building of the temple facilities, which were later to be known as Wat Phra Dhammakaya. The temple was formally established on Magha Puja Day, February 20, 1970.

The temple continued to prosper since. On important Buddhist days tens of thousands of people came to practice meditation at the temple. The land eventually became too small to accommodate the ever-increasing number of laypeople who came to use the facilities. Through the years that followed, temple congregations contributed funds to acquire more land, now grown to 1,000 acres.

Substantiation of Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni’s innocence and his pure-heartedness

Anyone can say anything, good and bad. What is more reliable than words is action—more than fifty years of continuous action.

One thing is clear: Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni has dedicated his entire life to Buddhism. Whether one agrees or disagrees to his method of propagating Buddhism is one’s own right to do so. It is subject to each one’s taste and temperament. But it is unconscionable for one to accuse him of wrongful intention. One who has wrongful intention as a motive is often one who seeks rewards and gains. Such a person would not have done what Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni has done. He or she would never have the ability to accomplish any of the following tasks:

  • Building religious facilities capable of accommodating one million Buddhists. This is an exceptional job that requires a lifelong dedication. The cetiyas, the chapel, the meditation halls and numerous other facilities, the combined values of which amount to billions of Baht, belong to the nation and the religion. Not one single Baht has been subsidized by the government.

  • Producing more than 4,000 monks, novices and temple staff and helpers who dedicate their lives to Buddhism, as well as a million laypeople who have found refuge in Buddhism.

  • The Buddha said, “Morality can be recognized when people live together.” Those who have lived together for tens of years obviously must have known the character of the people they have lived with. If Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni is not truly virtuous, would you expect any of the monks, novices, temple staff and helpers, to have dedicated their lives to the religion under his leadership like they have done? It is only natural that one has to realize the goodness of something before one is willing to dedicate one’s life to that something.

Can one accuse a person who has done goodness consistently throughout his life of pretense?

Dedicated his life for the sake of society

Ven. Phrahepyanmahamuni has contributed billions of Baht to public charities. Here are some examples:

  • Performing robe offerings for monks in 323 temples in the Southern provinces every month for the past twelve years

  • Creating more than 30,000 financial aids to teachers in the South

  • Provided requisites and food for mass-ordinations of more than 10,000 monks in towns and villages throughout Thailand, twice a year, every year. This is a campaign to prevent temples from being abandoned.

  • Group ordination of one million novices to revive morality for youths

  • Provide reliefs for people in Thailand and other countries who suffered natural disasters, such as floods, hurricanes and tsunamis.

Plea for Justice

Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni has lived a life of purity from a very young age to now an advancing age. At age 72, his health is failing. This is the final stage of his life. To accuse a virtuous person such as him of money laundering and receiving stolen properties is groundless and unconscionable. Think of it logically. Why would someone like him want to do such a thing? He has done a great deal for Buddhism and the society.

 

Klongchan Credit Union withdraws lawsuits against Wat Phra Dhammakaya

Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative issued an appreciation letter to supporters of Wat Phra Dhammakaya who raised funds to aid the Credit Union, issued a press statement, and made a recent appearance on a television program to publicly demonstrate their gratitude and announce they were withdrawing their case against Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Most Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni. See the video clip, letter, and press statement below. 

 

16th March 2015

Re: A letter of appreciation

To: Supporters of Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Most Ven. Phrathepyanmahamuni

Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC) had filed a civil lawsuit against Mr. Supachai Srisupa-aksorn, case number 736/2557, at Thanyaburi Court. Mr. Supachai Srisupa-aksorn had donated funds to Phrarajbhavanavisudh (Phrathepyanmahamuni) in the sum of 684.78 million baht, which were subsequently allocated toward the construction of religious facilities in accordance with his wishes. These funds were obtained from KCUC.  Although the funds were offered with transparency, supporters of Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Phrarajbhavanavisudh or Phrathepyanmahamuni felt the credit union’s financial operations could be severely impacted, as credit union members had been unable to withdraw funds. Wat Phra Dhammakaya supporters were concerned the lawsuit could become lengthy, which would not benefit either party. For this reason, these supporters raised funds to assist Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Phrathepyanmahamuni, and the credit union. In total, 684.78 million baht was raised and given to the credit union as a way to restore business operations and aid credit union members and employees.

KCUC realizes the donations in question were received by Wat Phra Dhammakaya with transparency and allocated entirely toward the construction of religious facilities. As a result, KCUC would like to extend its sincerest gratitude to Wat Phra Dhammakaya supporters for their compassion in raising these funds.

 

Respectfully,

Mr. Padet Mungthanya, Chairman

Mr. Prakit Pilankasa, Vice Chairman

Klongchan Credit Union Limited Cooperative, 1 Seri Thai Lane 7, Klongchan Sub-district, Bangkapi District, Bangkok 10240, Website: www.cukj.or.th  Tel. 0-2375-7193-4  0-2733-8674-5  Fax. 02-2375-7195

 

Financial Institution of the Community for the Community 

KLONGCHAN CREDIT UNION LIMITED (Letterhead)

CLARIFICATION TO THE MEDIA

 

Financial Reliefs to Klongchan Credit Union Members from the Devotees of Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Phrarajbhavanavisudh (Venerable Dhammajayo)

March 16, 2015

This is in reference to lawsuit, civil case No. พ 736/2557, filed at Thanyaburi Court, by Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC) against Mr. Supachai Srisupa-aksorn and associates for colluding to embezzle funds amounting to no less than 15 billion baht from KCUC during 2009-2010. Of this amount, 684.78 million baht was paid by checks, totaling fifteen, by Mr. Supachai to Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Prarajbhavanavisudh (Phrathepyanmahamuni or Venerable Dhammajayo). The suit demands that said funds be returned to KCUC by Mr. Supachai, Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Phrarajbhavanavisudh. An arbitration hearing is set for March 16, 2015.

It is the view of the devotees of Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Phrathepyanmahamuni that the funds in question were received with complete transparency and in good faith. These funds have been used for the construction of religious facilities as specified by the donors. By law, the temple is not at liberty to utilize funds donated by other donors towards various religious purposes, to pay to the KCUC. These devotees are concerned that the lawsuit would become lengthy and cause a negative impact to all concerned. They made a collective effort to raise money to provide relief funds to help alleviate the situation. A total of 684.78 million baht was raised and given to KCUC. These funds are to be used to support the credit union’s business operations and provide financial relief for its members. The amount will be paid in six equal monthly installments of 100 million baht beginning March 16, 2015, with the last payment being 184.78 million baht.  

These payments are extremely helpful to the credit union and its members. We are happy that KCUC recovered the funds in full from the Dhammakaya devotees without having to pursue them in court. We express our thanks and gratitude toward the devotees of Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Phrarajbhavanavisudh for their kindness. All lawsuits, civil or criminal, against Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Phrarajbhavanavisudh are being withdrawn by us. As for those other parties which funds are yet to be recovered, the lawsuits will continue.

KCUC has submitted letters to the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and Anti-Money Laundering Office (AMLO) advising them that it is no longer interested in pursuing the case, civil or criminal, against Wat Phra Dhammakaya and Phrarajbhavanavisudh. All suits against them are to be withdrawn. As for the cases involving other parties who have not yet returned the funds to KCUC, lawsuits against them will continue. The relief funds received from the devotees of Wat Phra Dhammakaya will be used to provide liquidity for the business operations of the credit union as well as financial assistance for its members. This is in accordance with the KCUC’s business plan.

Please be guided accordingly.

We thank all media organizations and members of the media community for their understanding and cooperation.

Sincerely,

Signed

Padet Mungthanya, Chairman

Signed

Prakit Pilangkasa, Vice Chairman


Klongchan Credit Union Limited Cooperative, 1 Seri Thai Lane 7, Klongchan Sub-district, Bangkapi District, Bangkok 10240, Website: www.cukj.or.th  Tel. 0-2375-7193-4  0-2733-8674-5  Fax. 02-2375-7195