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Thai Crown Prince Seeks Probe

February 2, 1999

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ In a rare foray into public issues, Thailand’s crown prince is supporting a government investigation into a Buddhist temple accused of bilking the poor and operating like a cult, local papers reported today.

Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s secretaries told government officials he was concerned the temple was attempting to exploit the royal family to gain followers, the Bangkok Post reported.

Thailand’s royal family is revered as semi-divine by the country’s citizens. A constitutional monarchy, members of the royal family rarely become involved in controversial public issues.

The temple, Wat Dhammakaya, is being investigated by Buddhist officials and the Education Ministry for allegedly preying on the poor by promising them personal merit toward a better life in the cycle of reincarnation if they buy amulets priced at $800.

The temple’s clergy has also been accused of promoting unorthodox and possibly heretical teachings and operating like a cult.

The crown prince was reportedly upset that Wat Dhammakaya advertised a televised mass ordination ceremony as an event to commemorate the 72nd birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

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