Dhammakaya acting abbot faces charges

Dhammakaya acting abbot faces charges

Dhammakaya sect founder Phra Dhammajayo is wanted on charges of forest encroachment and money-laundering. His location is unknown. (Post file photo)
Dhammakaya sect founder Phra Dhammajayo is wanted on charges of forest encroachment and money-laundering. His location is unknown. (Post file photo)

PATHUM THANI: Investigators handling a forest-encroachment case against Phra Dhammajayo have stepped up the pressure by asking police in Pathum Thani to pursue his aide for giving shelter to the former abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya.

Phra Thattacheevo, also known as Phra Ratchapaowanajarn, the acting abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, is now the subject of a formal complaint under Section 189 of the Criminal Code for giving shelter to a person facing an arrest warrant. Others believed to be obstructing authorities could also face charges, officials have warned.

The complaint was filed on Saturday at the Khlong Luang police station in Pathum Thani by Pol Maj Gen Worapong Thongbaiboon, acting chief of the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Division, and Pol Col Somkhid Thipayachakkapong, superintendent of the division's sub-division 3. 

The move came after the deadline expired on Friday for the embattled founder of the wealthy and powerful Dhammakaya sect to report to investigators in connection with forest encroachment cases in Nakhon Ratchasima and Loei provinces.

The Sikhiu Provincial Court earlier approved a warrant for the arrest of Phra Dhanmmajayo for alleged forest encroachment by the temple's World Peace Valley Meditation Centre at Khao Yai National Park in Pak Chong district in Nakhon Ratchasima.

The Loei Provincial Court also approved an arrest warrant in connection with a Wat Dhammakaya meditation centre built on reserved forest land in Phu Rua district during Phra Dhammajayo's time as abbot.

Phra Dhammajayo, 72, is also facing charges of money laundering and receiving property in connection with the multi-billion-baht Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative embezzlement scandal. The deadline for him to report to the Department of Special Investigation on that charge expired at midnight Wednesday.

It was the latest of numerous deadlines set by authorities in a months-long campaign to arrest the influential monk. They first attempted to enter the Dhammakaya compound on June 16 but backed off after facing stiff resistance from hundreds of Dhammajayo supporters who blocked the gates with heavy construction machinery.

The DSI is now said to be preparing to deploy as many as 1,000 officers in an attempt to locate the monk and bring him in for questioning.

Authorities are not even certain whether Phra Dhammajayo is in the temple or even in the country. Temple spokesmen say he is being treated on the premises for a serious illness but those reports cannot be verified.

Police are also seeking court approval for a warrant to search Wat Phra Dhammakaya, Pol Maj Gen Chayaphon Chatchaidet, acting chief of Special Branch 4, said on Saturday.

Authorities held talks earlier with representatives of the temple regarding conditions for the monk’s surrender and other legal procedures, he added.

Pol Maj Gen Worapong, meanwhile, said he had been assigned by deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul to bring charges against Phra Thattacheewo for dereliction of duty and helping a suspect escape punishment.

His agency is handling the Khao Yai encroachment case. 

Pol Maj Gen Worapong on Saturday handed documents, photos and a video clip of Ong-art Thamnitha, a spokesman for the Dhammakaya disciples, who said the ex-abbot was still receiving medical treatment at the temple, to Pol Lt Col Wichian Muensuwan, the Khlong Luang police chief.

Khlong Luang investigators will now issue summonses to Phra Thattacheewo to report to authorities to acknowledge the charges. If he fails to respond to the first three summonses, an arrest warrant will be sought.

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