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:
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."