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Buddhists Start “Donations Isn’t Money Laundering” Campaign

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Buddhists in California have started a social media campaign in support of Venerable Dhammajayo, the abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Thailand. The abbot is accused by the Thai Department of Special Investigations of conspiring to launder money and receiving stolen goods after he received donations that were later linked to an embezzlement scandal. The abbot admits receiving the donation but states he did not know the source, as he received them in the open public amongst a crowd of thousands of donors. United States based supporters of the abbot in California kicked off a campaign on social media to show solidarity with the abbot. The premise of the campaign is that the abbot is innocent since it is considered inappropriate to question the source of people’s donations.

Accusations against Venerable Dhammajayo, also known as Phrathepyanmahamuni, started when the former chairman of Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC) was alleged to have embezzled over 12 billion baht from the credit union and a portion was traced to donations made to the temple by the former chairman in the form of checks. The rest of the allegedly embezzled funds were traced to checks issued to several other organizations.

When the donations to the temple were found out to be linked to the embezzlement scheme, supporters set up an emergency fund to return the equivalent of the funds to the credit union. The credit union subsequently thanked the supporters and dropped all complaints. DSI is still pursuing the abbot on criminal charges

The abbot currently faces imminent arrest, due to not appearing for a summons by DSI on May 16th, 2016. Representatives of the temple had requested a few days earlier for the meeting to be moved to Wat Phra Dhammakaya, due to chronic illnesses confirmed by a panel of doctors. DSI turned down the request and sought an arrest warrant when the abbot failed to appear.

The recent arrest warrant prompted more outcry among supporters, one supporter in the United States started a petition to the White House in response to the decision.

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