Thailand: Inquiry into temple's finances

by MANIT SANUBBOON, Bangkok Post. Oct 28, 2004

Chachoengsao, Bangkok -- An inquiry has begun into a series of alleged irregularities at Wat Sothornwararam Voraviharn in Chachoengsao, including asset management and delays in building a two-billion-baht chapel and a dyke.

Chachoengsao Senator Bunlert Pairin said it would spare no-one. Findings would be forwarded to the senate president.

The Sangha Council recently removed the 87-year-old abbot of the wat, Phra Ratchamongkolwutthajarn, over alleged irregularities in religious and commercial activities. Senior monks, the temple manager, some laymen and local politicians were said to be involved.

Wichian Tancharoen, 74, father of House deputy speaker Suchart Tancharoen, said a committee has been set up to take charge of the temple's affairs.

The committee comprises Chachoengsao governor Komet Daengthongdee, Senator Bunlert, veteran politician Anan Chaisaeng and senior prosecutor Borom Srisuk.

Wat Sothornwararam Voraviharn is one of the country's most famous temples and draws huge crowds. It receives 300,000-400,000 baht in donations on weekdays, over 800,000 baht during weekends and donations jump to about three million baht during festivals.

Sources said the temple has about 1.8 billion baht in assets.