Thai PM Prayut warns monks against protest march

Thai PM Prayut warns monks against protest march
We're done: the committee's chairman Paiboon Nititawan

PRIME MINISTER General Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday warned disgruntled monks against going ahead with any plan to protest.

"I must say I ban any march. I will order police to prevent such activities. To the venerable, please go back to the temples," the prime minister said as the divide among monks deepens.

"Conflicts among monks are monks' own affairs. The government will step in only to do laymen's work," added Prayut, who also heads the National Council for Peace and Order.

Martial law is still in place in most parts of the country. It prohibits gatherings of five people or more.

Many monks, however, have openly vowed to stage rallies after the committee on the protection of Buddhism placed Dhammakaya Temple, its abbot Phra Dhammachayo and the Sangha Supreme Council under intense public scrutiny.

Several groups of monks and Buddhists warned that they would stage big rallies on March 12 if the committee were not scrapped.

After rocking the country's ecclesiastical circle, the committee decided to conclude its mission yesterday in the face of acute pressure.

"We're done," the committee's chairman Paiboon Nititawan announced at a press conference.

He said the committee had completed its study of Buddhism-related problems and submitted the report to NRC chairman Thienchay Kiranandana.

"We have also successfully raised public awareness of the need to protect Buddhism. So our mission is completed," Paiboon said.

He said although Thienchay continued to support his committee, the job was done. "Besides, there will be little to gain" by remaining when compared with problems that would arise, he said.

After the establishment of the committee, many monks lodged complaints with police against fellow monks.

Or Noi Temple's abbot Phra Buddha Isara, for example, lodged a complaint with the Crime Suppression Division against several monks including acting the Supreme Patriarch.

Phra Maha Show Dassaniyo, an adviser to the Academics for Buddhism Association, lodged a complaint against Phra Buddha Isara, alleging he intimidated the acting Supreme Patriarch.

Paiboon said that as the former chairman of the committee, he could continue to work under the NRC network to investigate irregularities related to Buddhism.

"For example, I will follow up on investigations into the alleged embezzlement at the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative [which gave huge donations to Dhammakaya Temple and its abbot] and look into complaints about monk chiefs' unfair practices against priests under their supervision," he said.

The Department of Special Investigation and the Anti-Money Laundering Office met with the committee recently and vowed to probe the cooperative and Dhammakaya Temple.

Justice Minister General Paiboon Koomchaya yesterday said the authorities had to take action against law violators no matter who they were or what type of organisation was involved.

He responded to criticism over the authorities touching on the sensitive faith issues. "Officials stand by laws," he said.

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