DSI calls off search of temple for Phra Dhammajayo

DSI calls off search of temple for Phra Dhammajayo

The Department of Special Investigation and Wat Phra Dhammakaya representatives announce the end of the search of the temple for Phra Dhammajayo at a media conference early Thursday afternoon, in the temple grounds. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
The Department of Special Investigation and Wat Phra Dhammakaya representatives announce the end of the search of the temple for Phra Dhammajayo at a media conference early Thursday afternoon, in the temple grounds. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

PATHUM THANI -- The Department of Special Investigation called off the search for the abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Phra Dhammajayo, on Thursday afternoon in the face of passive resistance from a large mass gathering of his followers.

The search had also been hampered by rain.

The end of the search was announced by Pol Col Suriya Singhakamol, the DSI deputy director-general, at a press conference called at 1.30pm. Also present were Khlong Luang police and senior monks of Wat Phra Dhammakaya.

Pol Col Suriya said the search was called off because of several factors -- the rain, the large number of Phra Dhammajayo's disciples who meditated in the wet all over the compound, and unclear information about the exact whereabouts of the abbot.

The deputy DSI chief said the mission had not been completed and officials still had the authority to act under a court warrant to arrest Phra Dhammajayo, who his disciples claim has been too sick to answer the DSi summons.

Pol Col Suriya said officials who acted under the search warrant believed Phra Dhammajayo was still in the temple. But despite their best efforts they were unable to find him. 

He said the DSI would report to the court in detail about the problems authorities  encountered during the failed search. The DSI would leave it to the court to decide on further action, he said.

"I believe all members of the media have witnessed what the DSI has done, and how the disciples responded. We have adhered to the principle of maintaining law and order. All units taking part in the search today have tried to avoid confrontation," Pol Col Suriya said.

He said the authorities had taken pictures of what could be construed as obstruction of  DSI officials and police doing their duty. Outside the temple compound, police had taken legal action against people in 14 cases, he added.

Phra Sanitwong Wutthiwangso, director of communications for Wat Phra Dhammakaya, said the temple had given full cooperation to the DSI, although the disciples had pleaded for mercy because the abbot was very sick. He had not fled.

He said it was not possible for the temple to stop the disciples from turning up in  large numbers for meditation out of concern for Phra Dhammajayo's well-being.

After the media conference, the temple closed all of its gates to reporters.

Earlier today, while the DSI was conducting the search, Dhammakaya followers issued a statement calling for the arrest of Phra Dhammajayo to be delayed until full-fledged democracy had returned to the country.

They said he  would not get justice under the present regime.

Wat Phra Dhammakaya covers more than 2,000 rai, but the DSI obtained a warrant to search only 196 rai, according to a report by Thai PBS News.

Phra Dhammajayo is wanted under an arrest warrant approved by the Criminal Court for money-laundering and receiving stolen funds in connection with the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative embezzlement scandal.


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