On Tuesday, May 10, Buddhists in Los Angeles, California gathered in front of multiple news stations to protest the injustice in Thailand. They occupied the areas in front of KABC channel 7, KTLA channel 5, and CBS channel 2. These protesters claimed they want to spread awareness about the lawsuit in Thailand concerning Phrathepyanmahamuni (Most Ven. Dhammajayo), the Abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, one of the largest Buddhist temples in Thailand. The rallying received ample media attention, with KABC channel 7 featuring the protest on its breaking news at 11:00 AM.
The protesters say Ven. Dhammajayo has been wrongly accused of money laundering and the receipt of stolen property. Four years ago, he had received a donation of 684 million Thai baht from Supachai Srisupa-aksorn, the chairman of the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC). Allegations against Wat Phra Dhammakaya arose when it was alleged that Srisupa-aksorn had embezzled more than 12 billion Thai baht from the credit union and checks from this offense had been traced back to Wat Phra Dhammakaya.
When devotees of Wat Phra Dhammakaya were made aware of this incident, they set up an emergency fund to return the equivalent of Srisupa-aksorn’s illegal donations to KCUC. They feared for the credit union’s cash flow, as it is one of the prominent financial institutions in Thailand. While KCUC initially filed for civil charges against Ven. Dhammajayo, they have since dropped all allegations and even issued a letter of appreciation to the temple supporters for their kindness.
Regardless, protesters claim the abbot has no ties to KCUC and stands wrongly accused of all allegations, since donations were made to him publicly, and there have been no attempts at the concealment of the money trail. There has been no substantial evidence to convict the abbot of any wrongdoing. In addition, all monetary donations are processed by the temple’s financial department, independent of the abbot’s management.
Protesters also argue that this case shows unjust discrimination against Ven. Dhammajayo. In Srisupa-aksorn’s embezzlement, he issued 878 checks to multiple entities. Yet, Ven. Dhammajayo is the sole person being prosecuted against. Aside from Srisupa-aksorn himself, none of the other recipients of the checks have been charged or convicted.
Although KCUC has dropped all charges against Ven. Dhammajayo and Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Thailand’s Department of Special Investigation (DSI) is still looking to bring Ven. Dhammajayo to court. A request for an arrest warrant for the abbot in April was denied by the criminal court. A second arrest summons is scheduled for May 16, 2016.