Former National Office of Buddhism officials given heavy prison terms
Former director of the National Office of Buddhism (NoB), Panom Sornsilp, and three other former senior officials were yesterday handed heavy prison sentences, after they were found guilty of corruption in connection with temple funds by the Criminal Court for Corruption Cases.
61-year old Mr. Panom was given 35 years, commuted to 23 years and four months. Mr. Boonlert Sopa, former director of Buddhism Promotion Division, was given 41 years, commuted to 27 years and four months. Mr. Narongdet Chainet was given 14 years, reduced to nine years and four months and Mr. Pattana Suthamartmontri was given 10 years, commuted to six years and four months.
The four former officials were charged with malfeasance in office in connection with the disbursement of funds from the NoB to several temples, supposedly for the promotion Buddhist studies, temple maintenance and production of printed materials for the teaching of Buddhism.
The court found that, instead of giving the full amounts to the temples as promised, the four former officials kept the bulk of the money for themselves, with the consent of the temple abbot, who was apparently unaware of the scam.
In one case in 2013, Panom, Boonlert and Narongdet sought ten-million baht from the NoB, to be given to Bang Oi Chang Temple in Nonthaburi province for the production of printed teaching materials for the temple’s Buddhism school despite, even though the school does not exist. The trio allegedly pocketed eight million baht.
In another case, also in 2013, Panom, Boonlert and Pattana sought five million baht for Bang Oi Chang Temple, 4.5 million baht for Sriruangboon Temple and 4.5 million baht for Mai Padungkhet Temple, supposedly for holding religious activities on important Buddhist events. The trio, however, kept most of the money for themselves and gave the rest to the three temples.
According to the court’s verdict, the trio pocketed four million baht from Bang Oi Chang Temple, 3.2 million baht from Sriruangboon Temple and 3.6 million baht from Mai Padungkhet Temple.
Mr. Panom has already been sentenced to serve 91 years on seven other corruption cases in connection with temple funds.