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Visitors pray in front of a large Buddha image at Wat Phanan Choeng Worawihan in Ayutthaya province in September. The National Anti-Corruption Commission found on Tuesday that senior officials of the National Office of Buddhism embezzled funds allocated to the temple. (Photo by Sunthorn Pongpao)

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has found that two former heads of the National Office of Buddhism (NOB), its deputy chief and an alleged accomplice embezzled most of two budget funds allocated to Wat Phanan Choeng Worawihan in Ayutthaya province.

Deputy secretary general Worawit Sukboon said on Tuesday the anti-graft panel found clear evidence against Noparat Benchawatananant and Phanom Sornsilp, both former NOB directors-general, Pranom Kongpikul, deputy NOB director-general, and Chompoonuch Janruechai.

According to Mr Worawit, in 2014 Ms Pranom, who was then director of NOB’s Buddhist Monastery Division, contacted the management of the temple in Ayutthaya with the offer of a 10 million baht fund for the temple on the condition that it returned 8 million baht for other activities said to be ineligible for funding.

Later, Mr Noparat approved the funding proposal without a request from the temple. After the temple received the 10 million baht it transferred 8 million baht to an account of Ms Chompoonuch, who was close to Mr Noparat, for her personal use.

In 2015, Ms Pranom proposed another 10 million baht fund to Wat Phanan Choeng Worawihan and demanded 5 million baht be returned. After Mr Phanom, then acting NOB director-general, approved the funding, the temple management withdrew 5 million baht in cash and handed it to Ms Pranom.

Mr Worawit said Mr Noparat, Mr Phanom and Ms Pranom would face criminal and disciplinary action and Ms Chompoonuch, who was not a government official, would be charged with supporting government officials’ misconduct.

He also said the Counter Corruption Division reported 97 cases of temple funds embezzlement to the NACC. The NACC’s investigation was underway.

News Reporter

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