Dhammajayo's followers to face prosecution

Dhammajayo's followers to face prosecution

Followers of Phra Dhammajayo pack the grounds of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, preventing DSI officials from arresting abbot Phra Dhammajayo after they entered the temple with a search warrant on Thursday.(Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)
Followers of Phra Dhammajayo pack the grounds of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, preventing DSI officials from arresting abbot Phra Dhammajayo after they entered the temple with a search warrant on Thursday.(Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Disciples of alleged money-laundering abbot Phra Dhammajayo will be prosecuted for obstructing officers of the law during their failed search of Wat Phra Dhammakaya on Thursday, Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya confirmed on Friday.

"There was obstruction. And barbed wire barriers were erected," he said.

"Besides, we must consider that a rally was organised in a temple. The preparations show that they were not there for religious practice. Faces were covered by cloths.

"That showed they wanted to obstruct the arrest [of the abbot]. I told the director-general of the DSI to report that to the court," Gen Paiboon said.

He was commenting on the crowd of white-clad devotees who gathered in the compound of Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Pathum Thani province on Thursday after the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) announced its officials would enter and arrest the 72-year-old abbot, who is charged with laundering money and receiving 1.2 billion baht in funds embezzled from the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative.

The Criminal Court recently issued an arrest warrant for  Phra Dhammajayo after he repeatedly failed to meet DSI officials to acknowledge the charges, claiming illness.

The DSI also obtained a search warrant for 196 rai of the 2000 rai temple compound

Gen Paiboon rejected the disciples' argument that the abbot would cooperate with the justice system only after democracy was fully restored in the country. The money-laundering case had nothing to do with politics and different excuses were being uttered every day, the justice minister said.

He denied that the DSI operation to search the temple and arrest Phra Dhammajayo had been a straightout failure. The DSI had followed instructions to avoid violence, he said.

DSI officials had already filed complaints with local police against temple disciples for alleged obstruction of officers performing their duty and for an illegal gathering, Pakorn Sucheevakun, the DSI's director for financial and banking crime, said.

National Council for Peace and Order spokesman Col Piyapong Klinpan claimed on Friday that Dhamakaya followers and monks had been brought in from other regions, including the Northeast, to join the gathering at the temple.

Authorities were checking on the temple's sources of financial support, he said.

DSI officers presented their search warrant at the Gate 7 entry to the temple about 9am on Thursday. Once allowed inside, they were met with passive resistance by a horde of devotees, many joining a chant of "sadhu!" (amen), who refused to make way for them despite a promise of cooperation given by temple representatives.

It was announced at a 1.30pm media conference that the search had been called off.  Media reports widely interpreted the operation as a failure and were critical of the DSI.


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