DSI says it's powerless to meet abbot's bail demand

DSI says it's powerless to meet abbot's bail demand

Giving shelter: Police show the complaint filed against Phra Thattacheevo. Photo: Apichit Jinakul
Giving shelter: Police show the complaint filed against Phra Thattacheevo. Photo: Apichit Jinakul

A demand by wanted abbot Phra Dhammajayo that he be immediately granted bail when be surrenders to the authorities has been knocked back by the Department of Special Investigation as it does not have that authority.

DSI chief Paisit Wongmuang on Saturday revealed the demand was made in negotiations on Friday involving representatives of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, the DSI and officials from the National Office of Buddhism.

Complaint: Phra Thattacheevo

Mr Paisit said the DSI rejected the condition as the case involves an indictment by the Office of the Attorney General over the laundering of 12 billion baht from Klongchan Credit Union.

Only public prosecutors have the authority, he said.

The abbot has faced arrest since June when DSI officials attempted to enter Wat Dhammakaya but were met by hundreds of Dhammajayo supporters who blocked the gates with heavy construction machinery.

Pressure has been mounting on the DSI to bring Phra Dhammajayo in for charging, while complaints have been lodged against the temple's acting abbot for providing shelter to a criminal suspect.

The complaint was filed by the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Division against Phra Thattacheevo, also known as Phra Ratchapaowanajarn, after the deadline expired on Friday for Phra Dhammajayo to report to investigators in connection with a forest encroachment case in Nakhon Ratchasima.

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

The monk had until Friday to surrender to officers.

With no sign of the monk, the anti-environment crime officers went to Khlong Luang police station in Pathum Thani and filed the complaint against Phra Thattacheevo, accusing him of violating Section 189 of the Criminal Code by aiding the suspect.

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 yesterday.

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 Thongbaiboon, acting chief of the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Division, said he was instructed by deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul to take legal action against the temple.

He said the acting abbot, who is considered a state official, would also face a charge of malfeasance in office.

He said he submitted to Khlong Luang police as evidence photos, documents and video clips by Ong-art Thamnitha, who represents Phra Dhammajayo's disciples.

On Nov 24 Mr Ong-art gave an interview that the abbot was still at the temple, but Phra Maha Nopporn Punyajayo, assistant director of Wat Phra Dhammakaya's communications team, on Wednesday refused to confirm it, saying he had not visited the former abbot for several months.

Khlong Luang police will summon Phra Thattacheevo for questioning.

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