Wat Dhammakaya again shuts gates to outsiders

Wat Dhammakaya again shuts gates to outsiders

Two large backhoes block the main entrance of Wat Dhammakaya in Khlong Luang district in Pathum Thani on Wednesday. (Photo by Pongpat Wongyala)
Two large backhoes block the main entrance of Wat Dhammakaya in Khlong Luang district in Pathum Thani on Wednesday. (Photo by Pongpat Wongyala)

PATHUM THANI - Two large backhoes mounted on caterpillar tracks returned to block entry to Wat Dhammakaya on Wednesday to protect the abbot following reports of a possible raid on the temple by police executing an arrest warrant.

The heavy machinery was parked across the main entrance of the temple in Khlong Luang district in Pathum Thani, and the gates were shut with scaffolding installed inside as another barrier.

In the street outside the compound, hundreds of motorcycles were lined up along the fence and the temple was not allowing outsiders to pass through the gate.

Parked motorcycles lined up along the fence outside Wat Dhammakaya. (Photo by Pongpat Wongyala)

There was no comment from the temple on the extra measures.

The tightened security followed reports from unnamed sources on some media outlets on Tuesday that police were considering a raid on the temple to capture Phra Dhammajayo after the collapse of negotiations about the abbot surrendering to investigators.

The unconfirmed reports said about 600 police would be deployed to seal the compound on Thursday and move inside the premises on Friday.

The only official move on Tuesday was a meeting of top police officers, led by deputy national police chief Pol Gen Sriwara Rangsitphramanakul, on the "Kabin 59" operation. He did not release any new details.

Phra Dhammajayo is wanted under an arrest warrant. The 72-year-old abbot is accused of involvement in money laundering and receiving stolen property worth 1.2 billion baht in connection with the 12-billion-baht embezzlement at Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative. He has denied the charges through spokesmen.

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 monk's followers removed the backhoes from the gate on June 1 after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha expressed concern over the mounting confrontation between Phra Dhammajayo's devotees and the  Department of Special Investigation.

Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya said on Wednesday that he was not aware of any plan to enter the temple, but officials would not give up their attempts to take the embattled monk into custody.

Gen Paiboon issued a strong warning against anybody trying to prevent authorities from apprehending  Phra Dhammajayo.

"Authorities will take their pictures and arrest them later. If they are at home, they will be arrested there. If they are seen on the road, they will be arrested there," he said.

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