Overview of the Case
Former renowned monk Phra Ajarn Khom and eight other individuals have refuted the charges of embezzling 182 million baht (approximately 5.4 million USD) from Wat Pha Dhammakiri, a temple located in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand. These individuals, including the former meditation expert, are facing trials for their alleged involvement in the corruption scandal.
Individuals Involved in the Trial
The former monk, now known by his layman’s name, Khom Kongkaeo, appeared in the Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases alongside his co-defendants. The other accused individuals include:
- Wutthima Thaomor, the former abbot of Wat Pha Dhammakiri, aged 38
- Juthathip Phubodiwarochuphan, Khom’s sister, aged 35
- Boonyasak Patarakosol, a driver, aged 45
- Five defrocked monks: Boonsong Panpuwong (34), Bundit Yoicha (42), Nathapat Tangjaisanong (36), Boonluea Phothong (36), and Thanakrit Yotsurin (34)
The Alleged Embezzlement Scheme
The nine defendants are accused of collaborating to embezzle a total of 182.77 million baht from the forest temple. Khom, aged 39, rose to fame as a meditation expert and attracted many high-profile followers. He was taken into custody in March, along with his sister Juthathip and the former abbot Wutthima.
The Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) initiated an inquiry following suspicions raised by the National Office of Buddhism. The office believed that Phra Ajarn Khom collected donations intended for the temple and used them for personal gain. Pol Maj Gen Montri Thetkhan, the commander of the Crime Suppression Division under the CIB, led the investigation.
It was reported that one donation was made through Wutthima, the former abbot, who subsequently transferred the cash to Juthathip. She then deposited the funds into her brother’s bank account. Additionally, cash donations amounting to 51 million baht were allegedly found in foam boxes and suitcases at her residence. Police have since confiscated the money.
The remaining six accomplices were arrested on March 9th. Authorities seized more cash, gold bars, gold ornaments, and other valuables from the temple compound.
Upcoming Court Proceedings
The nine defendants have denied all charges. The court has scheduled the evidence examination for November 7th.
Keywords: Fraud, embezzlement, temple, Phra Ajarn Khom, Wat Pha Dhammakiri, trial, corruption