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Phra Phromsitti surrenders over alleged embezzlement of temple funds

The Thaiger & The Nation

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Phra Phromsitti surrenders over alleged embezzlement of temple funds | The Thaiger

The former abbot of Wat Sa Ket has become the latest senior monk to become a guest of the Bangkok Remand Prison after surrendering to police yesterday.

Previously known as Phra Phromsitti (Thongchai Sukhayano), the former abbot had absconded for nearly one week before he contacted police.

“He claims he did not report himself to police earlier because he wanted to mark the Visakha Bucha Day,” an informed source said yesterday. Visakha Bucha Day was on Tuesday.

A police source revealed that the monk’s surrender took place after the Crimes Suppression Division (CSD) circulated a letter instructing immigration officials to detain three people close to the former abbot on sight.

According to the source, the CSD believes the trio – which includes a Laotian – might have helped the former abbot elude police last week.

On May 24, Phra Phromsitti was the only monk from Sa Ket Temple to elude capture during the police raid. The other monk on the run, Phra Phrommedhi (Chamnong Dhammajari), is the abbot of Samphanthawongsaram Temple. As of press time, the whereabouts of Phra Phrommedhi is still unknown. Five other monks implicated in the same scandal were arrested, denied bail and defrocked that day.

The National Buddhism Office has accused several senior monks of embezzling state funds for temples. The Sangha Supreme Council (SSC) – the country’s highest body for monastic affairs – dismissed Phra Phromsitti, Phra Phrommedhi and Sam Phraya Temple abbot Phra Phromdilok (Euan Hasadhammo) as its members last week.

Yesterday, the Royal Gazette promulgated the King’s royal command to strip the monks of their monastic ranks. Under this royal command, the four other implicated monks also lost their monastic titles. Even though the former abbot of Sa Ket Temple has already lost his monastic rank and left monkhood, he is still revered by many people.

A number of his followers gathered at the CSD yesterday to support him. The former Phra Phromsitti surrendered at Sa Ket Temple.

The monk was brought to the CSD where he was interrogated for three hours. He was expressionless as he left the CSD. Police asked for permission from the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases to detain him at a prison. The court granted the permission and decided to not grant bail to Phra Phromsitti. His lawyer had brought 1 million baht in cash for his bail plea.

62 year old Phra Phromsitti was ordained in 1976 and had been in monkhood until being defrockment yesterday. At the height of his monastic days, he was not just the abbot of Sa Ket Temple but also held several other important monastic positions.

A source said Thongchai plans to hold a press conference on the allegations against him in the near future. The ongoing police investigation suggested that Thongchai must have played a role in illegitimately funnelling more than 79 million baht from the Sa Ket Temple in recent years.

Some of the money reportedly went to a company that existed only on paper and was controlled by a woman who was close to a senior monk at the Sa Ket Temple.

Phra Phromsitti surrenders over alleged embezzlement of temple funds | News by The Thaiger

STORY: The Nation

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ASEAN

Human hair trade exploits ASEAN women

Greeley Pulitzer

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Human hair trade exploits ASEAN women | The Thaiger

Hair extensions have become an essential part of the multi-billion-dollar hair industry, with estimated annual sales of 250 million to over 1 billion USD. Based on a 2018 Research and Markets report, the global hair, wigs and extension market is expected to surpass 10 billion USD by 2023.

Raw human hair has significant commercial value: it’s a coveted commodity to be processed into hair extensions and wigs. According to a report by the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), the global value for human hair exports in 2017 was 126 million USD. Asia exported 72.4 million USD, accounting for 58 percent of the global trade.

In India, the Tirupati Balaji temple earns 10 percent of its income through auctioning hair donated by devotees, raking in a profit of 25 million to 40 million USD annually.

There are three categories for collected hair: Remy, non-Remy and virgin hair. Remy is usually obtained from temple donations and is of the highest grade. Non-Remy hair is a lower grade, collected from individuals, and is typically broken or short. Virgin hairhas never been chemically treated.

In Southeast Asia, long hair is esteemed as a mark of beauty with deep religious and social meaning, especially in Buddhist countries. While most brands opt to acquire hair from India where it’s donated for religious reasons, in Southeast Asia, traders target impoverished areas to buy hair from desperately poor people whose poverty makes them easy prey. Hair extensions in the US can cost 500 to 2000 USD, but the owner of the hair usually receives only a fraction of that. For example, Nguyen Thi Thuy of Vietnam says the highest she has ever been offered for her hair is 70,000 Vietnamese dong, or 3 USD. Pheng Sreyvy from Cambodia fared slightly better at 15 USD for her locks.

According to the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association, women don’t know how to bargain over the price of hair. “They decided to sell their hair because they are poor, and they don’t know where to sell their hair for international market price,” a spokeswoman said.

The high value of human hair has made hair-theft muggings a recurrent problem in some countries, and some companies have resorted to chemical processing or a mixture of human and goat hair.

Increased awareness of exploitation has prompted many companies to collect hair from more transparent and ethical sources. While the human hair trade has provided many communities with income and opportunities, practices that exploit and deprive women of opportunities continue.

SOURCE: theaseanpost.com

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Expats

Thailand’s immigration police catch thousands of overstayers thanks to airport biometrics

May Taylor

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Thailand’s immigration police catch thousands of overstayers thanks to airport biometrics | The Thaiger

The chief of Thailand’s immigration police says the biometrics system in place at sixteen airports across the country has so far netted 1,000 people who are blacklisted or on watch lists, 700 who have arrest warrants out for them, and 45,000 who have overstayed in the country.

The Nation reports that the system is also used to detect fake passports as it uses UV and infrared light to compare the information stored in a chip in the passport with facial features.

It’s understood that in just three days, police were able to arrest 8,000 people for being in possession of fake passports, illegal immigration, overstaying their visas or criminals with arrest warrants out for their capture.

The notorious fake billionaire who married in a lavish ceremony costing over 3.5 million baht and then left his wife to pick up the tab, was recently arrested at Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport after being caught by the biometrics system. See story HERE.

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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ASEAN

Thai Airways announces cancellation of six routes to four ASEAN destinations

May Taylor

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Thai Airways announces cancellation of six routes to four ASEAN destinations | The Thaiger

The President of Thai Airways International says the airline is set to cancel six flight routes to Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar.

The Nation reports that Sumeth Damrongchaitham says the routes in question are all from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport to Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Phnom Penh, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and Yangon.

“These routes are all covered by a small number of flights and have low customer capacity. Once the cancellation plan is finalised, THAI will assign Thai Smile Airways to cover these routes instead.”

Sumeth cites increased competition as the reason behind the decision and the difficulties presented by rival airlines slashing prices to remain ahead of competitors.

“THAI needs to adjust our strategies too to preserve our reservation rate. We will focus on rolling out promotional campaigns until year end. However, next year’s strategy remains to be seen. Our prices this year have been reduced to a record low and if this strategy doesn’t work, we may take a different direction, such as seeking more partners for organisation tickets, increasing online channels, or giving privileges to frequent fliers.”

SOURCE: nationthailand.com

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