Phra Phrom Dilok, a member of the Sangha Supreme Council and abbot of Wat Sam Phraya, is arrested at his temple in Phra Nakhon district, Bangkok. (Photo by Wassayos Ngamkham)

Bangkok (VNA) – Bangkok police made coordinated raids on Buddhist temples around Thailand and arrested senior monks for alleged embezzlement, including members of the Sangha Supreme Council.

The taskforces from the Crime Suppression Division raided Wat Sam Phraya, Wat Sa Ket and Wat Samphanthawong pagodas in Bangkok, Wat Onoi in Nakhon Pathom province and Wat Kudeethong in Sing Buri province.

At Wat Onoi pagoda, police arrested abbot Buddha Isara who supported Bangkok Shutdown movement in 2013-2014. He was held on a charge of supporting robbery during the demonstrations led by the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

Phrom Sitthi in Wat Sa Ket (Golden Mount) was also arrested. Police suspect Wat Sa Ket of embezzling money from two Buddhism-related projects worth 69 million baht (2.2 million USD). About 4.1 million USD were transferred to 10 bank accounts of Wat Sa Ket abbot.

Major General Maitree Chimcherd, Commander of the Crime Suppression Division, said most funds allocated to Wat Sa Ket, Wat Sam Phraya and Wat Samphanthawong were dishonestly transferred to outsiders. 

About 90 percent out of 69 million Thai population follow Buddhism. Thailand’s temples, which earn billions of USD every year from donations, have been embroiled in scandals ranging from murder, sex and drugs to shady financial dealings.

Under pressure from public opinions and authorities, Buddhist establishments have enforced tougher discipline for more than 300,000 monks.-VNA