BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn revoked the monastic ranks of seven senior Buddhist monks on Wednesday following police raids last week at temples that put some monks behind bars.
Three of the monks who had their monastic titles revoked in an announcement published in the Royal Gazette are from the Sangha Supreme Council, Thailand’s governing body of Buddhist monks.
Thailand’s military government has clamped down on illegal financial dealings by Buddhist temples as part of a campaign to clean up Buddhism’s image tarnished by money and sex scandals involving monks.
Of the seven senior monks whose rank was revoked, four were arrested during police raids at several Buddhist temples last week, in the year’s biggest such operation.
Following their arrests, the four monks and one other senior monk were stripped of their monkhood. The four are now in jail awaiting trial.
A fifth monk, who is also a member of the council, turned himself into police on Wednesday.
“We are investigating. We will take him to jail this afternoon,” Maitri Chimcherd, the commander of the Crime Suppression Division, told Reuters.
Buddhism is followed by more than 90 percent of Thailand’s population of 69 million.
Thailand’s temples, which earn billions of dollars every year from donations, have been embroiled in scandals ranging from murder, sex and drugs to shady financial dealings.
(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Michael Perry)