Dhammajayo sets three conditions for surrender

Dhammajayo sets three conditions for surrender

Devotees attend a merit-making ceremony at Wat Dhammakaya in Pathum Thani on the Holy Day on Saturday. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)
Devotees attend a merit-making ceremony at Wat Dhammakaya in Pathum Thani on the Holy Day on Saturday. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

A representative of Phra Dhammajayo has set three conditions, including the immediate granting of bail, for his surrender to answer money-laundering charges, the head of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) said on Saturday.

The conditions were outlined at a meeting held on Friday between the DSI, representatives of Wat Dhammakaya and other Buddhist clergy. No resolution was reached, and another meeting is planned on Monday, said Pol Col Paisit Wongmuang, the DSI chief.

First, the abbot wants to be granted bail right after hearing the charges. However, the issue is complicated for a monk.

Section 29 of the 1941 Sangha Act stipulates that investigators may take action to defrock a monk facing a criminal charge and deny bail if they deem it appropriate. The monk reportedly is reluctant to put himself at the mercy of the DSI even though invesigators have said they would allow bail and set a surety of 5 million baht.

Second, Phra Dhammajayo wants doctors from Phramongkutklao Hospital, run by the Royal Thai Army, to come and examine him at the temple instead of those from the Medical Council of Thailand.

The 72-year-old monk and his supporters have maintained for months that he is too ill to report in person to DSI officials to acknowledge the charges. The DSI, however, has questioned the credibility of an earlier medical certificate.

The abbot had earlier refused to agree to an examination by Police General Hospital doctors for fear of partisanship. The DSI subsequently contacted the Medical Council to send a team but the monk has now declined that offer without giving reasons.

Third, the chief monk of Pathum Thani, where Wat Dhammakaya is located, must join the DSI in charging the abbot, said Pol Col Paisit.

Phra Theprattanasuthi, the Pathum Thani chief monk, was among those attending Friday's meeting. Also present were Pol Lt Col Somboon Sarasit, the DSI deputy chief; National Office of Buddhism director Somkiat Thongsri; and a representative of Phra Dhammajayo.

Phra Dhammajayo, 72, is accused of involvement in money laundering and receiving stolen property worth 1.2 billion baht in connection with the 12-billion-baht Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative embezzlement. He has denied the charges.

He is allegedly one of the recipients of 878 cheques paid by former cooperative chairman Supachai Srisupa-aksorn, who admitted to siphoning money from the cooperative's accounts in 2013 and was sentenced by the Criminal Court to 16 years in jail.

The abbot was ordained 47 years ago at Wat Paknam and founded what is now known as Wat Dhammakaya shortly afterward.

Wat Dhammakaya has since become one of the wealthiest Buddhist temples in the world but its unorthodox teachings do not sit well with many mainstream Buddhists. However, it has tens of thousands of followers, many of them wealthy and influential, in Thailand and abroad.

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