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Date: 12/17/98

Publication: The Nation

Section: Headlines

Dhammakaya abbot may try hand at mining

ARMED with coffers filled with billions of baht in donations, the business tentacle of the Wat Phra Dhammakaya covers a myriad of investment projects, including a prospective gold mine.

While sermonising, abbot Dhammachayo has relentlessly urged followers to pledge total commitment to the series of donation drives.

While off-stage, the abbot is busy funnelling money into his wallet to be later invested in projects in his name.

To devotees, their meditation master has never explained why he wishes to accumulate material wealth, which is in violation of monkhood, and how the wealth under his name would affect religious propagation.

Dhammachayo has amassed at least 156-rai of land in Phichit province since 1991 even though the formal transfer and title deeds under his name were completed just last year.

Recently word has spread that Dhammachayo is petitioning for a licence to start mining operations on his plots. This rumour has triggered doubts about his real intention and some expect him to speculate on property in the surrounding area.

Lamai Yookaew, former owner of the land, revealed that intense lobbying prompted her to she sell her plots to Dhammachayo's nominee, Chanwit Premkamol.

Following the sale, the temple cleared the land and evacuated several households and a school from the plot in Ban Khao Phanom Pha, Wang Sai Phun district.

Based on the registration records, the land was officially sanctioned as a title deed under the ownership of Dhammachayo last January.

Local residents said they have been receiving offers for their land from the temple while there is a persistent rumour that there might be a gold mine under Dhammachayo's plots and the surrounding area.

In a sermon, Dhammachayo told followers that the amulet known as Phra Siri Ratchathat, made of a multi-coloured stone and given in exchange for a Bt30,000 donation for the construction of Maha Dhammakaya Jedi, might contain a gold thread even though he warned that such speculation has not been confirmed.

The stone, when hit with light, sometimes shows a golden streak which, some followers claim, expands as their merit-making increases.

While followers marvel at the amulet, the abbot has moved on with a tale that he might be preparing to open a gold mine, a symbol of inexhaustible wealth in return for an unwavering devotion to donations.

The Nation

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