National Office of Buddhism
The National Office of Buddhism (Thai: สำนักงานพระพุทธศาสนาแห่งชาติ; RTGS: Samnak-ngan Phraphutthasatsana Haeng Chat), also known as Office of National Buddhism (ONaB), is an agency of the central government of Thailand. It is an independent public agency, reporting directly to the prime minister. The National Office of Buddhism is responsible for state administration of the religion, including the development of Phuttamonthon as a religious center. Religious affairs are handled by a Sangha Supreme Council of monks.
|Formed||3 October 2002|
|Headquarters||Phutthamonthon, Nakhon Pathom, Thailand|
|Parent agency||Office of the Prime Minister|
ONaB, together with the Sangha, sponsors Thailand's overseas Buddhist missionary policy and activities.
Traditionally, the government of Thailand administered matters of religion and public education together under the Ministry of Public Institution, whose name was changed to the Ministry of Education in a 1943 reform, which also established the Department of Religious Affairs within the ministry. Another reform in 2002 moved the Department of Religious Affairs to the Ministry of Culture and split part of its responsibilities to create the independent National Office of Buddhism.
The head of the National Office of Buddhism, Pongporn Pramsaneh, a former policeman who joined the organization in February 2017, vowed to reform Thailand's 37,075 temples by forcing them to open their financial accounts to the public. The temples receive an estimated US$3.5 billion a year in donations. The government provides a further 4.67 billion baht (US$137 million) to support temples and their more than 300,000 monks. In August 2017 Pongporn was dismissed from his position after Buddhist groups called on the government to sack him over his plans to clean up monasteries. In September 2017 Pongporn was reinstated. His reinstatement followed a police decision to bring charges against four senior monks in connection with temple funds embezzlement. The alleged wrongdoings have since broadened to include officials of the National Office of Buddhism who are alleged to have worked with senior monks in charge of at least 45 temples in Bangkok and other provinces to embezzle more than 270 million baht in state funding. As of April 2018[update] at least one Thai Buddhist organization is again calling for Pongporn's ouster, claiming that, "...laymen did not have the power to rule over monks." There are signs, however, of growing opposition to clerical independence. As an editorial in the Bangkok Post put it, "...temple donations must be transparent and open to independent auditing. The government must also make temples stand on their own feet. No more financial support; no more privileges."
- Tanakasempipat, Patpicha; Niyomyat, Aukkarapon (2017-08-30). "Thailand's Buddhism chief removed after pressure from religious groups". Reuters. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
- Kitiarsa, Pattana (2010-04-30). "Missionary Intent and Monastic Networks: Thai Buddhism as a Transnational Religion". Sojourn: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia. 25 (1): 109–132. ISSN 1793-2858.
- Ekachai, Sanitsuda (27 April 2018). "Defrocking bad monks just part of reform" (Editorial). Bangkok Post. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
- Thepgumpanat, Panarat; Tanakasempipat, Patpicha (2017-06-16). "Thai junta seeks to force temples to open their finances". Reuters. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
- Sattaburuth, Aekarach (2017-09-26). "Buddhism office chief reinstated". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
- Ngamkham, Wassayos (2017-09-26). "Graft scandal snares 4 senior monks". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
- "The mess some monks create" (Editorial). The Nation. 2018-04-26. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
- "Buddhist group calls for Pongporn to quit over case of monks' alleged fraud". The Nation. 25 April 2018. Retrieved 27 April 2018.