NOB transfer harms govt anti-graft drive

Pol Lt Col Pongporn Pramsaneh, right, then-director of the National Office of Buddhism, holds a press conference in March on the former abbot of Wat Dhammakaya, Phra Dhammajayo. He was removed from the post on Aug 29. (Photo by Pawat Laopaisarntaksin)

Pol Lt Col Pongporn Pramsaneh has been widely recognised as an honest and straightforward officer in the Department of Special Investigation – a rare breed in the police force. It explains why he was ordered shifted from the DSI's head of the Tax Litigation Office to lead the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) on Feb 25 by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to do an unenviable mission. His task was to clean up the mess concerning the misappropriation of government funds for the renovation of temples and for schools on temple grounds.

The misappropriation is known as ngern torn (which literally means "small change") because it is a practice in which authorities approved and allocated the state's funds to certain temples in excess of their actual needs. After that the excess amounts were personally given back to the authorities as "small change".

The wording, ngern torn, may be misleading. The total amount involved in the misappropriation each year is not chicken's feed, but comes to billions of baht.

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