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Date: 1/15/99

Publication: The Nation

Section: Headlines

Temple may rely on 'seeds' for its defence

THE Dhammakaya Temple is facing a multi-pronged investigation conducted by various agencies.

However, with its massive following and connections everywhere, the temple could still count on its ''seeds'' to mount a vigorous defence.

The Sangha Supreme Council has ordered an investigation, as has the Religious Affairs Department. Education Minister Panja Kesornthong ordered the National Cultural Office to inspect the Dhammakaya Foundation's income and expenditure while tax investigators are closing in on the temple.

The House committee on religion, art and culture has started an aggressive and systematic inquiry. The Land Department is checking the plots owned by the temple and the abbot.

Crime suppression police have joined the special branch police, the National Security Council and the National Intelligence Agency to look into the temple's business activities.

Yet informed sources say the influence of Dhammakaya has infiltrated at least two of the investigative bodies -- the Sangha Supreme Council and the Education Ministry. Scholarships have been handed out to university students and Education Ministry officials. The temple has established close links with the ministry through the ''summer ordination'' of students nationwide.

Religious missions of senior monks in the Sangha Supreme Council have received financial support from the temple. The council has appointed Phra Phrommoli, to lead a panel scrutinising the temple's teaching of Dhamma, its proclaimed miracle and the abbot's conduct.

A C-8 official at the Education Ministry who is involved with the agency's investigation of Dhammakaya is also known as one of the temple's ''seeds''. His ''protective'' attitude has raised conjecture by other members of the fact-finding panel.

Dhammakaya followers have sent letters to newspapers criticising the temple's activities. Many of them come from well-educated people who use polite language in earnest defence of the temple. In Dhammakaya publications, high-profile followers, like judges, doctors, senior police officials, actors and actresses, are highlighted either by photos or quotes praising the temple and the abbot.

It was reported yesterday that a senior official in the Forestry Industry Organisation once forced his subordinates to participate in a Dhammakaya religious programme by threatening wage cuts.

Dhammakaya has always said that problems stemming from the faith of its followers were beyond its control. With regards to the massive donations it has earned, the temple said they were given voluntarily and the followers know how the temple has spent the funds.

In a way, Dhammakaya is one of the country's biggest universities, having produced thousands of graduates now scattered in different professions. The scandal has emboldened some graduates while the disillusioned others have chosen to stay on the sidelines. However, a few detractors are becoming increasingly outspoken, and it is this group that the investigators are counting on.

Political Desk

The Nation

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