Statement of Dhammakaya Followers to Foreign Correspondents

*Updated June 25th, 2016

This is an unofficial response from the people behind Dhammakaya Uncovered to the recent panel on “Politics in Religion” hosted by the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand on June 22, 2016.

 

Greetings members of the foreign press,

 

Dhammakaya Uncovered would like to start off by making several points about the ongoing case against the Abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Phrathepyanmahamuni.

First off, it should be known that the case involves embezzled money of about 12 billion baht that was given to a variety of organizations, charities, and temples by the former chairman of Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative. Less than 10% of the illicit funds were given to Wat Phra Dhammakaya, in the form of donations. Despite this fact, the media and DSI have only been focusing on prosecuting Dhammakaya. Furthermore, there is no way the abbot could know about the tainted donations, as he received them in the open public in front of a crowd of donors. If DSI can charge the abbot for this, they can charge any non-profit for receiving stolen goods. It should also be known that after it was discovered that the donations made by the chairman were illegal — which didn’t occur until two years after the donation — Dhammakaya followers raised the equivalent of the illicit donations to return to the credit union as an emergency fund to prevent the bankruptcy of the union. Dhammakaya is the only recipient of the illicit cheques to have done so. The credit union then thanked the supporters and dropped the charges.

It should also be known that most of the members of the victim credit union do not support the case against Dhammakaya and most of the chief proponents of the case are not even affiliated with the victim credit union—they are simply opponents of Dhammakaya.

We would also like to clarify that the arrest warrant for Venerable Dhammajayo is grounded on the abbot not appearing for a summons to hear charges, however Dhammakaya sent representatives to request the hearing simply take place at the temple's medical ward due to the abbot’s doctor verified illnesses. The Thai Deputy Prosecutor even agrees there is no reason DSI cannot accommodate this reasonable request. It should also be known that past summonses issued by DSI were legally deferred.

There are those reporting that supporters protected the abbot because he is faking illness to avoid meeting with investigators - he is not. His condition was verified by a panel of doctors and a medical certificate. DSI launched an investigation into the medical certificate but the Medical Council of Thailand affirmed its validity. Again, Dhammakaya invited DSI to simply meet with the abbot at the temple and even to invite a neutral doctor to verify his condition, DSI refused. If our abbot is detained, article 29 of the Monastic Act requires monks be forced to disrobe, considered a death sentence for monks who have taken a vow of lifelong ordination.Our only request was for DSI to give our abbot his charges at the temple, this is not only legal, it is normal procedure for them to do so. But instead they insist on forcing the abbot to appear elsewhere as an excuse to get an arrest warrant. We implore other news outlets to raise these issues also.

As for the statements made about Dhammakaya on the Foreign Correspondents Club Panel, the people behind Dhammakaya Uncovered would like to make the following points, as the panel seems to have been set up largely just to attack Dhammakaya:

First off, it should be made known that two of the speakers, Dr. Mano Laohavanich and Mr. Sulak Sivaraksa, are vocal anti-Dhammakaya critics. Laohavanich has made numerous false and defamatory accusations against the temple without any proof or evidence, not just at the panel, but many times in the past. He has even made ridiculous claims about Dhammakaya that were proven false. We implore the foreign press to not take Dr. Mano’s remarks about Dhammakaya as credible.

 This is an actual slide from Dr. Mano Laohavanich's Anti-Dhammakaya presentation at the Foreign Correspondents Club Thailand Panel. 

This is an actual slide from Dr. Mano Laohavanich's Anti-Dhammakaya presentation at the Foreign Correspondents Club Thailand Panel. 

In the panel, Dr. Mano makes numerous claims against Dhammakaya, many of them outright crazy, and none of them backed by any evidence. He claims our abbot looks young due to cosmetic surgery - this is false. Our abbot does look young for his age but this is a benefit from meditation. It should be known that monks in general look younger than their age and there is scientific support meditation helps slow aging on the body. A good example of another famous monk who looks young is Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. He is almost 90 years old and looks reasonably young for his age. Our temple’s founder, Master Nun Chand Khonnokyoong, who passed away in the year 2000 at the age of 91, also looked quite young for her age. You are free to look into scientific studies of meditation or to meditate extensively yourself to confirm this effect meditation has on the body.

Dr. Mano also claims that the abbot lives a lavish lifestyle - this is a lie. The abbot’s living quarters is 100% in accordance with the Buddha’s guidelines, additional medical facilities he has are for his doctor-verified illnesses. We are willing to send photos if you actually believe Dr. Mano for some reason.

Dr. Mano claims the abbot had invested in arms, is storing weapons and has numerous business enterprises overseas. We assure Dr. Mano made this up and challenge Dr. Mano to indicate which businesses we invested in exactly and implore the press to investigate. We have never invested in arms, businesses or anything. Our expenditures are very transparent, as investigated recently by the Anti-Money Laundering Office, and we invite the press to look for evidence of these absurd claims because we are confident none will be found. We have also already allowed the press to investigate these non-existent weapons stockpiles at the temple.

Dr. Mano makes numerous claims about Dhammakaya having bizarre and unBuddhist teachings. We affirm that while some of our customs are different from other Thai Buddhist temples, there is no difference in the teachings of Dhammakaya and the teachings of Buddhism. The bizarre claims Dr. Mano makes about Dhammakaya are the result of his unstable imagination and his extremely anti-Dhammakaya sentiment.

The followers of Dhammakaya would also like to raise this point about Dr. Mano. He states he is credible because he used to be a member of Dhammakaya. Although that is true, he should not be taken as a credible source. We would like to point out that if you look through various news outlets he has slandered Dhammakaya on, Dr. Mano consistently changes the story as to why he left Dhammakaya. We would also like to point out that we are a large organization and we have had many people come and many people go, but Dr. Mano is the ONLY former member of Dhammakaya making these insane accusations. In real exposés, such as those on the US-based Church of Scientology, there are multiple defectors and whistle blowers that are able to independently verify the same accusations.  If Dhammakaya is truly as crazy as Dr. Mano claims it is, there has to be other people who left and other people who can back his bizarre accusations up. We would like journalists to ask themselves and raise this point, “Why is it that Dr. Mano is the only person making these claims?”

To clarify, we are confident the majority of correspondents were sensible enough not to listen to Dr. Mano’s absurd accusations anyways. The claims are untrue and have no evidence and we would prefer not to have to respond to every baseless accusation Dr. Mano Laohavanich makes against us, but we responded to several anyways.

The other anti-Dhammakaya speaker at the one sided panel, Mr. Sulak Sivaraksa, claims that Dhammakaya promotes greed. We would like to say that Dhammakaya does not promote or advocate greed. We believe in eliminating greed from our minds through generosity. Our events frequently state, “May the merit that we collect, help us eliminate, the defilements (including greed), from our minds”.

Mr. Sulak Sivaraksa even goes as far as calling our abbot “evil”. We assure you, the abbot is not evil, and this claim shows much insight into Sulak’s character. Our abbot is an upstanding Buddhist monk who has earned numerous awards from several different organizations across many countries for his work in Buddhism, charity, and natural disaster relief. Sulak is a highly cynical social critic who has negative views of many institutions including Dhammakaya. Sulak was invited along with Dr. Mano to the one sided and mostly slanderous panel because these two are widely known for their extreme anti-Dhammakaya prejudices and should not be seen as reliable or objective when discussing Dhammakaya.

Dr. Mano again, as well as Mr. Sulak, claim that Dhammakaya is tied to former PM Thaksin and the Red Shirts. To be clear, we do not care about politics. It should also be known that Dhammakaya supporter Mr. Boonchai of DTAC was an opponent of Thaksin and an open Yellow Shirt. All are welcome at Dhammakaya regardless of political views.

We implore the members of the press to adhere to principles of ethical journalism in their reporting of this case. The key to reporting the most accurate story is getting both sides of the case in order to create a more comprehensive report. As devotees of Dhammakaya, we are outraged to have seen one sided opinion pieces against our temple come out after the panel. Some journalists have reported on both sides of the story however. Mr. Pravit Rojanaphruk’s article that came out after the conference includes information from the anti-Dhammakaya panel as well as information from a rebuttal the temple gave. The followers of Dhammakaya applaud Pravit for his journalistic integrity in reporting both sides of the story.

We make an appeal to journalists to bring up these points mentioned about the case and our responses to the statements made in the Foreign Correspondents Club Thailand panel in their reporting of Dhammakaya. We also invite all foreign correspondents to come to Dhammakaya to ask any questions they may have about the ongoing case or Dhammakaya in general. We have plenty of English speakers who are more than willing to answer any inquiries. If you are too busy to meet at Wat Phra Dhammakaya, we invite you to send an email to media@dhammakaya.net for an official temple response to any questions you may have or to info@dhammakayauncovered.com for any questions you may have for the followers of Dhammakaya behind Dhammakaya Uncovered. A quick 5 minute email may make a huge difference in the comprehension in your reporting.  

 

Featured Photo in Bangkok Post June 7, 2016

In a recently published article (7th June 2016) written about Wat Phra Dhammakaya and its Abbot, Most Venerable Dhammajayo, there were several inaccuracies that Bangkok Post tried to pass off as truths, but we will just focus on one obvious error: The photo caption

image.jpg

According to the Bangkok Post: “Temple leaders on Monday claimed followers of the Dhammakaya sect across the country raised money to fund purchase of rice and other food to send to the temple in Pathum Thani province in order ‘to encourage the clergy.’”

According to reality

image.jpg

Banner 1 as held up by supporters and between the two trucks reads:

The 2-Million Monks Nationwide Alms-offering 77 Provinces Throughout Thailand And the Dhammakaya Foundation, initiated by Phrathepyanmahamuni (Luang Por Dhammajayo) sends their moral support and dried food to offer to the courageous monks in the 4 southern most provinces of Thailand.

Banner 2 hung on one of the trucks:

Supporters of Luang Pu Chah Subaddho offer dried goods and necessities to the 353 Temples in the 4 southernmost provinces of Thailand, to preserve the life of Buddhism and to pay homage to the Buddha, on the occasion of Visakha Puja Day 2016 (2nd)

Banner 3 (right side):

Devotees from Pattani and Narathiwat would like to offer our sincere gratitude to Phrathepyanmahamuni (Luang Por Dhammajayo) for providing aid to us for over 10 years.

Additional photos verifying the alleged rice and other foods being sent to “the temple in Pathum Thani province in order ‘to encourage the clergy’” were actually sent to their intended destination: Narathiwat.

 Accused truck arrives at intended location: Narathiwat Province. Not Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Pathum Thani, as accused.

Accused truck arrives at intended location: Narathiwat Province. Not Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Pathum Thani, as accused.

As you can see, the truck with the license plate of ‘70-2389’ was filled with dry foods was parked in front of the Dhammakaya Foundation Headquarters. The adjacent photo shows the same truck en route to its destination as it approaches the 'Welcome to Narathiwat' sign.

 Truck carrying dry foods arrives at its destination: Narathiwat Youth Training Center

Truck carrying dry foods arrives at its destination: Narathiwat Youth Training Center

 Military personnel unloading dry foods at Narathiwat Youth Training Center.

Military personnel unloading dry foods at Narathiwat Youth Training Center.

 Soldiers provide safety to those delivering and receiving the food that has been sent as aid for the Southern Thailand Region.

Soldiers provide safety to those delivering and receiving the food that has been sent as aid for the Southern Thailand Region.

Armed military personnel, standing inside the tents filled with mounds of rice sacks and dry foods, are not there to guard the food but to ensure the safety of the people making the delivery from any dangers that may arise. The unrest in the southernmost provinces of Thailand has made it too dangerous for monks to perform the daily monastic duty of going out for their morning alms-round, or even to receive the delivery of these dry foods. To subsist, the monastic community in these regions are dependent on these dry foods. To ease their plight, the Most Venerable Dhammajayo has been sending food and requisites to this area continuously for over the past ten years.

If the article opens with a misleading photo caption, what can we say about the content in rest of the article? Should Bangkok Post post a warning in its articles to all its readers: “Please read with caution, information provided here may or may not be completely accurate”?

To the Bangkok Post: Phrathepyanmahamuni isn’t just “sick", his conditions are life threatening

Bangkok Post’s latest article about Phrathepyanmahamuni's (Most Venerable Dhammajayo) condition and request for Thailand’s Department of Special Investgation (DSI) to provide a hearing at Wat Phra Dhammakaya clearly reflect a deeply held bias they have against the 72-year old Buddhist monk and abbot.

On May 14th, 2016 at 2pm, Wat Phra Dhammakaya held a press conference led by the temple’s press team and MV Dhammajayo’s physicians. The press release regarding his condition and request to DSI can be found here.

  Press conference at Wat Phra Dhammakaya on May 14th, 2016 led by the temple’s press team and MV Dhammajayo’s physicians. 

Press conference at Wat Phra Dhammakaya on May 14th, 2016 led by the temple’s press team and MV Dhammajayo’s physicians. 

Bangkok Post’s article failed to include all pertinent facts, several of which would have been made known to them had they attended the press conference:

Medical Condition

  • Let’s do a quick analysis of MV Dhammajayo’s condition: “...patient’s left lower extremity is now becoming more acutely ischemic and vascular surgeons have discussed the possibility of amputation.” What does this mean? He is at risk for LOSS of LIMB.

  • His condition of, “acute deep vein thrombosis in the left lower extremity places patient at risk for an acute pulmonary embolism, which is fatal” means MV Dhammajayo is NOT just “sick” as the Bangkok Post writes, but his conditions are LIFE THREATENING. MV Dhammajayo has the right to preserve his basic human right to life.

  Ven. Pasura rather than Ven. Sanitwong as incorrectly attributioned by the Bangkok Post, points to a photo of MV Dhammajayo's leg at the press conference.

Ven. Pasura rather than Ven. Sanitwong as incorrectly attributioned by the Bangkok Post, points to a photo of MV Dhammajayo's leg at the press conference.

  • [Updated May 15, 2016] Bangkok Post writes, "Doctors who briefed the media at the temple displayed several pictures showing the symptoms affecting the monk's body, but none of them showed his face." The watermarked photo (above) taken from Bangkok Post's website clearly shows a photo displaying MV Dhammajayo's face in the top left corner of the photo display board. This is complete SLANDER and a complete disregard for the truth. 

Patient's Rights

  • It is a patient’s right to elect his physician, and opt for a second opinion by a physician of his choosing. He also has the right to determine where this treatment takes place, whether in his own home or temple, or in a hospital. It is also not considered unusual for physicians to make house calls. Given the nature of MV Dhammajayo’s conditions, it is unsurprising that medical examinations took place at the temple.

  • It is also a patient’s medical right to privacy to request that no photos be taken. This right is well known in the international community. And given the Bangkok Post is an English language newspaper, they should be aware of this. If DSI wants to ensure the photos and x-rays of MV Dhammajayo’s extremities do indeed belong to him, they should send their own team of medical experts. The temple already extended an invitation for DSI to bring their own team of physicians to conduct their own examination.

  • DSI seemed to be aware of patient’s rights back in 2015 when they examined MV Dhammajayo at the temple. Have they forgotten? Why aren’t they able to do so this time and why hasn’t Bangkok Post questioned their refusal to do so?

  • The temple offered to provide transportation to DSI officials to conduct their investigation and medical examination of MV Dhammajayo at the temple. This is a fairly generous offer. If I were Bangkok Post, I would question DSI’s motive if they were to refuse.

  Physician performs medical examination of MV Dhammajayo on May 14, 2016

Physician performs medical examination of MV Dhammajayo on May 14, 2016

Abuse of Power

  • Bangkok Post fails to mention that the DSI charges being brought against Ven. Dhammajayo reflect an abuse of power. The “evidence” and “charges” presented by DSI were taken from a previously opened case already under investigation. This is ILLEGAL under Civil Procedure Code Section 173(1) and Criminal Procedure Code Section 15. Why hasn’t Bangkok Post investigated this? 

  • As part of the Ministry of Justice, DSI must abide by a code of ethics - which has been nearly absent from its handling of this case. They’ve bypassed all protocol unjustly and unethically, determined to bring Ven. Dhammajayo to court, including failing to send their own medical team, retracting an initial postponement allowance on April 25, and serving a third summons by posting it to the temple’s “doors”, without ensuring it reaches the hands of Ven. Dhammajayo’s representatives.

  • And most importantly, the charges being brought against MV Dhammajayo are groundless. MV Dhammajayo is being accused of laundering money and receiving stolen property. The premise for money laundering, however, requires an absence of a clear money trail. This is not the case here. All funds donated to the temple were with checks, not cash, in front of a crowd of thousands and broadcast on satellite TV - all of which have already been allocated towards social works projects and construction of religious facilities. MV Dhammajayo does not handle the funds himself - the temple’s chief financial officer is fully responsible for it. And although it was not required, MV Dhammajayo’s supporters raised ~600 mil baht in an act of goodwill to help the KCUC get back on its feet - the only organization under investigation to do so. So, why is DSI continuing to target only MV Dhammajayo? And why hasn’t Bangkok Post written about this?

Responsible Journalism

  • [Update as of May 15, 2016]: Bangkok Post's latest headline in the Sunday print edition (at bottom) misleads the public into believing MV Dhammajayo has "snubbed" DSI, which is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as "rebuff, ignore, or spurn disdainfully." This is far from the truth as stated above, and is simply a way to prioritize sensationalization of news over facts.

  • Jitchareoenkul and Laochong, authors of the article's print version write, "The monk did not say whether DSI authorities would be allowed to meet with Phra Dhammajayo directly." The temple's press team had stated at the press conference that they welcomed DSI-appointed physicians to examine MV Dhammajayo, which would certainly imply that DSI would be "allowed" to meet with the abbot in person.

  • Bangkok Post’s position as a top media outlet in Thailand should be questioned. Their failure to adhere to codes for responsible journalism indicates this bias - including why Bangkok Post chose to exclude pertinent information, and why it has not investigated the practices of DSI itself. I urge readers and reporters from international outlets to exercise caution when using Bangkok Post as a source for news or your own reporting.

MV Dhammajayo has dedicated nearly 50 years to Buddhism, social works, and other projects for world peace. Full facts about the case can be found here

  Bangkok Post [Print Edition] May 15, 2016

Bangkok Post [Print Edition] May 15, 2016

To The Nation: Phra Dhammajayo's Case is Not Just Religious, It Defies Common Sense

Some articles belong in the opinion section for a good reason, and the article by Tulsathit Taptim titled “Any Dhammajayo defense must be religious, not political” certainly fits the category.

The author, Mr Taptim, has written many articles on different topics from politics to religion, and many contain useful information. However, this article is not one of them.

It is the duty of media outlets to maintain its integrity by selecting only good articles to make it to publication - this is referred to as responsible journalism. Some recommended criteria should be checked facts, credible sources, and good writing.

The purpose of this article is to point out the mistakes made in this opinion “news” article, so that Tulsathit Taptim may provide corrections to his article, or The Nation can elevate their standards for publishing.

Phra Dhammajayo’s current case is not just a religious one

The first and most obvious mistake is right in the headline. Phra Dhammajayo’s current case is not just a religious one. The Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative allegations against the abbot violates even simple common sense.

With over 12 billion baht involved in the case, DSI deliberately chose Phra Dhammajayo, who accepted merely 5% of the said amount, as the first, and only target to launch the criminal lawsuit at. However, that is not the biggest hole in this issue.

There is already an open case under investigation for the 12 billion baht that has been suspected as embezzled by Mr Supachai. The case is still with the prosecutor and Mr Supachai has not yet been deemed guilty for embezzlement of the full amount.

In simple terms, DSI filed a criminal lawsuit against Phra Dhammajayo, accusing him of laundering money that has not yet been decided if it is illegal or not. The case has been built on minimal evidence and minimal agreement from the prosecutor’s sector.

What DSI is doing to inflate the case is just like making a jenga tower tall; more wobbly as it grows.

More details on the case have been explained in Patrick Chan’s article “A Perspective on the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative Case”. At the very least, Mr Tulsathit Taptim and The Nation should hear facts from all sides, not just what the mainstream media publishes.

The Buddha instructed his disciples to teach and share their knowledge of his Dharma

The second mistake is the journalist’s failure to offer any support or references to his assumptions on Buddhism. Remember, assuming makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’ Let’s correct these false assumptions.

The statements, “[The Buddha was] concern[ed] monks' teaching could unintentionally harm laymen's livelihoods,” and “ His disciples were told to refrain from teaching if it might cause problems,” are quite inaccurate.

The journalist’s attempt to try and make connections between the Buddha’s establishment of the Lent season to a monk’s teaching as harming the livelihoods of laymen is quite illogical. The statements about harming crops may be true, but the assumption that the Lent season was meant to tell monks to refrain from teachings is not.

No known Buddhist scripture offers any support for that assumption. A journalist should check his perceived knowledge with the scriptures first.

The Buddha actually suggested that it is his disciples’ duty to teach as much as possible. His directions for the first 60 enlightened monks included:

“You will travel for the benefit of the people…
...You will offer teachings that begin beautifully, continue beautifully, and end beautifully…
...There are beings with little dust in their eyes.
Their lives will be wasted if  they do not listen to the teachings.
There are ones who are capable of understanding Dharma.”

Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya 4.39.32

The Buddha taught his disciples to practice generosity to eliminate greed

In the Buddha’s era, a number of individuals took this teaching of practicing generosity to heart.

For instance, as described in the Jataka, in his final life before becoming the Buddha he was born  as Vessantara, the one who practiced supreme generosity. He gave away so many things that he was banished from his kingdom, but the one thing that he never gave up on was generosity-- an important trait of a Bodhisattva.

The story of Anathapindika, one of the Buddha’s biggest supporters is another example. At one point in his life, he almost became broke, so an angel that was living in his house advised him to stop donating any more of his fortunes. Naturally, his reply to the angel was something along the lines of, “No. It’s none of your business what I do with my own money. Leave my house.” In the end he never became broke because of his merit earned through generosity, and he continued to give his fortunes to support Buddhism and the less fortunate.

The Dhammakaya temple never taught anyone to donate everything they’ve got

The journalist claims,  “The Lord Buddha himself would have asked the Dhammakaya monks, "Are you sure you didn't damage their crops?"” He tries to accuse the temple of milking people to bankruptcy.

However, the article provided no evidence of the Dhammakaya temple ever teaching this. On the contrary, Phra Dhammajayo has said the following:

“Don’t take out loans to make donations because it will put you into a troubled financial situation. Donate your own money, only what you are capable of, and if you want to contribute more than that, just invite others to donate with you instead,” 4th January, 1998.

The Dhammakaya temple has 96 centers in Thailand, and 93 internationally, spread across 35 different countries. On 22nd of April, Phra. Dhammajayo was recognized with 97 awards from 40 countries for his tireless efforts in teaching and spreading the Dharma of the Buddha.

If the Lord Buddha was living today, he would have approved of how far the teachings of the temple have travelled  “for the benefit of the people” and for Buddhism. It is understandable that the temple receives large amounts of donations, since the expense of running the temple and a vast number of its programs have been free of charge to the public.  

No known organization audits every single donor

Laws do not require non-profit organizations to audit its donors. There is no known organization that audits every single one if its donors, because no organization would want to violate a person's privacy and look into their personal finances. If this statement is false, feel free to provide proof of an organization who audits every one of its donors.

For these reasons, the temple does not and will not audit or question any of its donors. Therefore, there was no way they could have known the source of the donation.

The defence against injustice for Phra Dhammajayo is not only a religious one, but also a political one.

There is no need to try and brand the case as a “conspiracy” case, because opinions do not matter, only FACTS do.

The case is being carried out in an unprofessional and propagandic manner. DSI has shown several signs of bigotry and discrimination against Phra Dhammajayo throughout this case. In once instance, DSI used a video from an event on 22nd of April to mislead the public into thinking that the abbot was healthy on the 25th of April.

This video was used as “legal” evidence of Phra Dhammajayo’s health status instead of assigning a licensed physician to properly diagnose him. DSI tried to use the video to override the medical certificate submitted to DSI on the 25th of April. With this “evidence,” DSI sought to override the medical certificate’s validity and filed a request for an arrest warrant, which was rejected by the court.

Press releases and media coverage with defamatory statements have been published since DSI’s stunt. Regardless of the truth, the media and the public opinion have already been swayed. It is so political it belongs in Netflix’s “House of Cards” drama series.

However, it definitely is not a conspiracy because if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck, it must certainly be a swan.



 

    




 

ABC News mistakes The Onion submission for the Lateline show

If you remake ‘Going Clear’ with unreliable sources, partial investigations, and change the Scientology church to Dhammakaya temple, you would get ABC’s Lateline show “Tax scandal rocks Thailand's religious institutions and exposes Thai monks' growing penchant for material wealth,” something that ABC News mistakenly posted on the wrong site. It was probably meant to be submitted to The Onion News.

This article may be treated as a sequel to the last article “ABC News slams Somdej Chuang with bad journalism,” a response to the biased article written by Liam Cochrane.

The Lateline show poses to defame Thai monks for attachments to material goods through the interviews of outspokenly biased individuals, Mr. Mano Laohavanich, and Mr. Sulak Sivaraks. It is unclear if ABC News and Mr Cochrane were aware of the bias of these individuals or not. It must be the result of a mistake in the ABC News’ source checking system, once again.

Wishing for “material wealth” is NOT in itself a sin in Buddhism

The goal of life in Buddhism is to reach Nirvana, or enlightenment, which can take many lifetimes to achieve by the statements in the scriptures. The belief states that in order to reach that goal, one has to cultivate merit. One of the ways to do so is through the practice of generosity.

It is not only common sense, but also appears in scriptures that participating in Dana, or generosity, brings more material wealth to the individual. That material wealth may then be used to commit even more generous acts. That would then lead to more good karma, more merit.

The scripture never mentions anything about the Lord Buddha teaching followers to be poor. Poverty pushes people to commit crimes, not do more good things. Having more material wealth means having an easier time at generosity.

It has been debunked that monks are not allowed to ride in cars. Monks can be passengers in any vehicle

Mr. Sulak, allegedly a Buddhism expert, made a comment against monks using vehicles. His quote, “the Buddha walked all through his life, 45 years of his ministry. He even refused to go on elephants, horses and cow, because that is exploiting animals. Monks are encouraged to walk.”   

If Mr. Sulak had proper knowledge of Buddhism, he would have noticed that parts of the Vinaya Pitaka stated how monks should behave in boats or with caravans. The Lord Buddha may not have allowed riding on animals, but he allowed the use of transportation. Mr Sulak’s argument may be valid if we had real life transformers. Then riding in cars could be seen as exploiting a living being.

In addition, to see the full response on the allegations against Somdej Chuang’s car, please refer to the previous article “ABC News slams Somdej Chuang with bad journalism.”

Mr. Mano has been an outspoken conspiracy theorist against the Dhammakaya temple for decades. If you combine two characters, ‘Anakin Skywalker’ and ‘Lex Luthor,’ you get Mano.

It is quite shocking that Lateline allowed Mr. Mano to play his re-run statements on its show. His statements have been reused over and over for the past couple of decades, devoid of any support to them. He tells many stories, yet there have never been any true sources to them. For ABC News to take his statements as truth is a fallacy. It is propaganda and conspiracy theory. Not any less fantasy than the idea of The Illuminati.

Phra Pasura Dantamano, the foreign correspondent of the Dhammakaya temple, has been biasedly excluded from the show

The composition of the people interviewed in this show was balanced in quantity: 2 opposers, and 2 supporters. However, the quality was unbalanced. Both Mr. Mano and Mr. Sulak are well known for their strong bias against the Dhammakaya temple. They have had years of experience with the media and types of statements that may appeal to the popular interests the most.

The two representatives for Dhammakaya in this show were a ‘faithful follower’ and a newly ordained young international monk.

Regardless if it were true that “ [Phra] Dhammachayo declined a request for an interview.” Phra Pasura Dantamano, the foreign correspondent of the Dhammakaya temple, had been interviewed by the journalist, Mr. Cochrane. However, not a single one of his words were included in the Lateline show.

It may or may not have been an intentional choice for ABC News and Mr. Cochrane to have composed the Lateline show in this unrespectable matter. However, it is not the first time that they have made this blunder of biasedness. If it is indeed an accident born out of ignorance, the news reporting moral of ABC News and the journalist should be fixed.

The truth may be denied, but never avoided.

ABC News Slams Somdej Chuang with Bad Journalism

On March 29th 2016, ABC News published an article titled “Thailand's head monk to be summoned by police over luxury Mercedes-Benz”. Despite the fact that ABC News has a reputation of credibility, the article contains lots of inaccurate information that must be fixed before it can rightfully belong in the news section.

The journalist, Liam Cochrane, had already corrected one of the mistakes five hours after posting the article. The mistake was replacing the title “Somdej” with “Mr.,” a big no-no in the Thai and Buddhist culture. Thus, it would not be new if all the other mistakes should be corrected also.

The article lacks both the full facts and justness. This response is aimed to shed light to all this misinformation, so ABC News and Mr. Cochrane may have all the correct facts to enhance the credibility of their article.

By law, monks cannot be ‘summoned’

From the very first few paragraphs, the article has already picked a side: against Somdej Chuang. The article presents observations from only one side of the case without fully addressing the full rights and privileges of Somdej Chuang.

Let’s first discuss the rights. The article failed to mention that Somdej Chuang is a witness in this DSI case, NOT a suspect. He must be treated accordingly, not as a criminal. His decision to not speak about the subject without the presence of a lawyer is his full rights, and should be respected. It is only the DSI that “prefers” to have the witness testimonials in speech. They do not have the authority to force Somdej Chuang to give any testimony. Though, Somdej Chuang did volunteer to cooperate, but in writing through the facilitation of proper lawyers, which is easy to keep record of for both parties and is a lawful decision.

Let’s now discuss the privileges. By Thailand’s civil procedure code, monks cannot be summoned as a witness. DSI must request for affidavit. It is the Thai law that 3 types of people may not be summoned as witnesses. These people have been granted special privileges that states they may only be invited in the circumstance that they are only witness to a case:

1. Royalty

2. Monks

3. Diplomats

The act of “summoning” Somdej Chuang is both undiplomatic and against the law. General Paiboon’s statement quoted in the article that “we have to issue the arrest warrant,” is based on his own ignorance of this lawful privilege. DSI’s gift of candles and incense to Somdej Chuang does not give them the free ticket to show that kind of disrespect.

Mr. Sulak and Mr. Mano have no facts, only opinions

On the topic of the article’s attempt to jump on to the train of defaming the Dhammakaya Temple, the following must be presented.

The Dhammakaya’s embezzlement case in 1999 has been settled long ago. The abbot was found innocent. To bring up this settled case is not only unethical, but very unprofessional. The case is way too old for a throwback. #tbt? Maybe it belongs on Twitter or Instagram instead.

Even an older throwback is to give credibility to Mr. Mano, who had been removed from the temple in the 80’s.

Both Sulak and Mano as cited in this piece have never presented any evidence in their allegations against either Dhammakaya temple or any people. They made oral and unsubstantial claims toward many people but none of those statements can be supported. It must be a mistake in the ABC’s source checking system, because such a credible news channel cannot possibly consciously choose them.

Mr. Sulak’s quote, "[It's] teaching people that to be powerful is good, to have money is good, the more you spend money on the Dhammakaya you can even see the Buddha — and you can even live forever," carries absolutely no weight. The temple has never taught such ridiculous teachings. The quote was a blatant lie from Mr. Sulak. Just by making this one absolutely slandering and defaming statement is enough to complete discredit Sulak’s opinions about the temple, or even about Buddhism. How could someone comment on anything Buddhist, if he couldn’t even keep the five precepts?

*For anyone caring to know, the five precepts are the basic guidelines for all Buddhist to live by. One of them is to not tell a lie.

No proper reference to the scripture saying which teachings were wrong

The article also accuses the Dhammakaya temple for wrong teaching, while they have never attended any of the teaching sessions, but only offers a one sentence quote of the teachings.

The temple teaches the teachings of the Lord Buddha. The Tripitaka scripture has 84,000 entrances. Anyone can attend any of the teaching sessions and compare them to the entrances. However, to make such a claim that the teachings have been changed from the scripture, it requires reference to scripture. No such proper references have been made in the article by any of the “credible” people interviewed.

Political ties? Really?

Lastly, to make a link between the temple and a single political figure or party is quite weak. The temple has no political ties to Mr. Thaksin, or any political figures in Thailand. However, the temple is quite big, a fact that everyone knows. There is no denying that there are people from every walk of life attending the temple. Common sense says that some of them may be Yellow shirts, some Red shirts, some undecided; it is each person’s freedom. What ever political groups they identify with, when they are inside the temple’s premises, they are White shirts.

As juicy as the article was, ABC News and Mr. Cochrane must correct all these fallacies or move the article to the opinion section of the website. Failing to do so will only make ABC News and Mr. Cochrane less respectable.

For more information regarding this case, see "The Guardian Presents Incomplete Story Regarding Somdej Chuang."

The Guardian Presents Incomplete Story Regarding Somdej Chuang

By Patrick Chan

The Guardian posted an article “Top Thai Buddhist monk investigated over vintage Mercedes-Benz”. The majority of the article was actually quite correct. However, some of the “facts” need to be corrected, and some of the statements need to be explained more fully, incorporating the whole situation. These little errors lead the article to appear very misleading.

In Thailand, respect is a very important part of the culture. In the same way that a soldier must salute the rank, anyone who wants to address a monk with proper respect must address his monkhood and title correctly. The journalist, Oliver Holmes, did not take this in consideration and addressed the high monk as “Chuang” when it should have been “Somdej Chuang.”

General Paiboon illegally ‘summoned’ Somdej Chuang

The article quoted Paiboon Kumchaya, a justice minister who does not know the civil procedure code. His quote, “If [Somdej Chuang] doesn’t respond to the summons, we will seek an arrest warrant,” was voiced without considering the proper laws in place.

By Thailand’s civil procedure code, monks cannot be summoned as witnesses. DSI must request for affidavit. Thai law states that three types of people may not be summoned, unless they are actual suspects. These people have been granted special privileges that states they may only be invited:

  1. Royalty

  2. Monks

  3. Diplomats

The act of “summoning” Somdej Chuang is both undiplomatic and against the law. General Paiboon’s statement quoted in the article that “[he] will seek an arrest warrant” is based on his own ignorance of this lawful privilege.

Somdej Chuang is a witness, NOT a suspect of the case

Based on this law that Somdej Chuang cannot legally be “summoned,” he does not have an obligation to comply with the invitation. General Paiboon has absolutely no reason to make the misleading and false statement that he can seek an arrest warrant. Somdej Chuang cannot legally be arrested for not responding to an illegal summons. It is also important to note that Somdej Chuang is not the suspect of the case, but only a witness.

There are over 6,000 cases of alleged illegal cars in Thailand, so why is Somdej Chuang the main target?

Somdej Chuang’s case is not the only one in Thailand. DSI has ‘exposed’ tax evasions of over 6,000 imported luxurious cars. Police Major Woranat Srilum, the director of DSI said Somdej’s gift car actually belongs in the second category of luxurious cars under 4 million baht, which has 5,000 other ars sharing the category.

To target only Somdej Chuang and allow all the category 1 cars to go uninvestigated is discrimination. It is simply his alleged ties with an unpopular sect that is leading the DSI to target him, while not spending nearly the same investigative capacity on the other cases. It raises the question: does the conflict of interest lie in the nomination of the Supreme Patriarch?

DSI carried the case in an unprofessional fashion

It isn't to say that the case should be dropped, but this is how it should have been carried:

Somdej Chuang should have been asked for a witness statement at his own convenience without being illegally summoned. If he decided to have a spokesperson, that would be his legal choice. This can all be politely and privately executed. There is no need for publicity and bigotry from both the public and the press.

According to the Customs Act section 27 bis., there must be clear evidence that tax was not paid on the car and that the owner is fully aware of it, before the owner can be brought into litigation.

The imported car was given to Somdej Chuang in Thailand. The car was already assembled by the time he received it. At no point was he in contact with the tax evasion process of the car in question, so he is innocent. He was at the end of the whole process, not the one importing the car. After receiving it, it was parked in a museum, not driven by him even once.

Meanwhile, many of the other 6,000 cars that await investigation are being driven around the streets of Thailand. It is clear that the people in charge of the investigations are definitely bigots, choosing only cases that would cause the most havoc in the society.

There are no political ties between the temple and Thaksin Shinawatra

Somdej Chuang ordained the abbot of the Dhammakaya temple - along with hundreds of other monks. Perhaps it can be said that Somdej Chuang has ties to several temples in Thailand. However, the Dhammakaya temple has no political ties to Mr. Thaksin, or any political figures in Thailand. To make such a groundless statement is a stunt to try and make a dull article juicier.

Let’s repeat this statement from another article:

“The temple is quite big, a fact that everyone knows. There is no denying that there are people from every walk of life attending the temple. Common sense says that some of them may be Yellow shirts, some Red shirts, some undecided; it is each person’s freedom. What ever political groups they identify with, when they are inside the temple’s premises, they are White shirts.”