The alleged malfeasance concerns Choltarawas temple in Narathiwat’s Rangae district, Yuparam temple in Yala’s Muang district and Suriyaram temple in Songkhla’s Thepha district, NACC secretary-general Worawit Sukboon said yesterday (Jan 8).
The NOB received a budget of B4.5 billion in fiscal 2015, B459 million of which was set aside for activities aimed at promoting Buddhism, he said.
A committee was later formed to allocate budgets for such activities. The panel was chaired by Pranom Kongpikul, the then-deputy director of the NOB.
In July 2015, Sathien Damrongkadeerat, who at the time served as the director of the Songkhla Provincial Office of Buddhism, contacted the three temples, saying he would earmark budgets for them on condition they repay a fixed amount to him, according to Mr Worawit.
The budget-allocating committee met on Aug 3, 2015 and agreed to grant the temples a budget of B4mn apiece. Phanom approved transferring the money, Mr Worawit said.
After the money was wired, Sathien contacted the temples asking them each to return B3.2mn to him, Mr Worawit said.
Phra kru Borihan Sangkanuwat from Wat Choltarawas gave the sum to Sathien at a Tesco Lotus in Songkhla on Aug 21, 2015. Sathien was arrested at that location.
Pranom reportedly phoned Wasawas Kittithirasit, a planning and policy analyst at the NOB at the time, asking him to create a document for a project promoting Buddhism. He said this was aimed at boosting the morale of Buddhists in the deep South.
Mr Worawit said the project was drafted to make it look as though the B4mn wired to Choltarawas temple would be used to support this programme.
The document was later faxed to the Songkhla Provincial Office of Buddhism so Sathien could refer to it following his arrest to justify his actions, Mr Worawit added.
The document includes messages indicating that B3.2mn would be delivered to the chiefs of the provincial offices of Buddhism in the five southern border provinces at their meeting on Aug 28, 2015.
Pranom later wrote to the directors of these provincial offices to inform them of the plans regarding the project so they could work with clergymen and local people.
She explained the B3.2mn from Wat Choltarawas would be used in the project’s first phase and the directors needed to get the money from Sathien on Aug 28, 2015 at Wat Khok Saman Khun in Songkha.
The B3.2mn from Wat Yuparam would be used in the second phase, with an allocation of B800,000 each for Songkhla, Pattani, Satun and Narathiwat, the letter claimed.
The same sum from Suriyaram temple would be divided into similar portions and distributed between Pattani, Satun, Yala and Narathiwat, it maintained.
Mr Worawit said the budget-allocating panel earmarked the money without completing the proper documentation, which indicated malfeasance.
Project and other documents were issued falsely after Sathien was apprehended, he said.
The official letters Pranom wrote to the NOB on Aug 27 and Aug 31, 2015 about the project suggest she certified the work of Sathien, he said.
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