Sucking Ghost

From Daily News, June 30, 2017
Title: Wearing suit…. Absorb the temple’s money
On the monk’s bowl: Temple’s money

[This shows a hungry ghost dressed in a typical politician’s suit. Thai folk beliefs contend that, when a person who does bad things dies, they will become a “hungry ghost.” The hungry ghosts are thought to gather around temples waiting to suck up the merit made by people.
This cartoon comments on the perception that the Thai political class uses temples as a way manage the movement of financial graft.
This would bring to mind the longstanding accusations that Dhammakaya Temple is acting as a front to launder political graft.
This goes all the way back to the late 1990s when strong independent oversight agencies were strictly enforcing anti-graft laws by banning politicians. These bans felled some of the giants of Thai politics–many of who where the most connected and untouchable people in the nation.
These bans involved declaration discrepancies. As political parties in Thailand are designed to reap “benefits” (i.e kickbacks in many forms) from large projects, this banning struck at the very economic heart of the way politics worked.
Shortly after winning his first big election, Thaksin himself was able to reverse this trend when, despite having his holdings in the names of his household staff, he was not banned and continued as prime minister.
Subsequently, a plan to legalize casinos in Thailand was believed to be the first effort to create a laundering mechanism for the spoils of politics. At the root of the vigorous resistance to this plan was the fear that a political party in power–connected to the local casino industry–would possess a way to claim (and thus launder) the receipts of gambling. This would be a cover for ill-gotten gains of politics and could be funneled back to politicians through structured investments, offshore holdings, etc.
After Thaksin was deposed in 2006, accusation were made that temples were being used as conduits for shifting and legalizing funds related to political life.
This is the long story that leads us to the crusade against Dhammakaya as a suspected vessel of financial graft acting for the Thai political class.]

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