Plan to arrest Phra Dhammajayo not yet finalised

Plan to arrest Phra Dhammajayo not yet finalised

A police officer stops a van carrying a monk and disciples of Wat Phra Dhammakaya for a search at a checkpoint in Pathum Thani. (Photo by Pongpat Wongyala)
A police officer stops a van carrying a monk and disciples of Wat Phra Dhammakaya for a search at a checkpoint in Pathum Thani. (Photo by Pongpat Wongyala)

Authorities have yet to finalise a plan to arrest Phra Dhammajayo while disciples of the former abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya kept coming to the temple on Monday.

Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said on Monday the planned arrest of the former abbot of the temple in Pathum Thani’s Khlong Luang district has not yet been finalised due to some legal obstacles.

Pol Gen Srivara spoke after a five-hour meeting between officials from the Department of Special Investigation, the Royal Thai Police Office and the Judge Advocate-General’s Department to discuss the operation to apprehend the former abbot.

To seek court approval to search the temple, authorities had to answer all queries to be raised by the court, said the deputy police chief.

However, he could not confirm whether the operation to apprehend Phra Dhammajayo could be carried out this week or not.

The deputy police chief insisted police would not block followers of Wat Phra Dhammakaya from entering the temple. The deployment of security officers was aimed at boosting safety for the temple’s disciples gathering for prayers and preventing any untoward incident caused by a third party.

He said police would not use force against the temple’s disciples when carrying out the operation to apprehend Phra Dhammajayo.

“In our operation, those who pray, just do it. We won't use force. But don’t try to act like thieves. All are under the same law. In the previous operation to search the temple, those inside were seen covering their faces,” said Pol Gen Srivara.

DSI chief Paisit Wongmuang said he could not reveal the dates to search the temple.

The 72-year-old former abbot is wanted under arrest warrants for alleged forest encroachment by the temple's meditation centres in Loei and Nakhon Ratchasima provinces, and for alleged laundering money and receiving stolen property involving hundreds of millions of baht embezzled from the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative by the co-op's former chairman.

Meanwhile, police in Pathum Thani’s Khlong Luang district set up a checkpoint to search vehicles heading to Wat Phra Dhammakaya while private cars, buses and vans carrying disciples and monks were seen entering the temple.

A police checkpoint is set up on a road leading to Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Pathum Thani on Monday. (Photo by Pongpat Wongyala)

On the same day, a retired engineer claiming to be a former disciple of Wat Phra Dhammakaya accused the temple of allegedly destroying his family.

Chartchai Bamrungsunthorn, 62, a former chemistry engineer at a private firm, showed up in front of the temple, holding a banner with a message branding the former abbot as a "cold-blooded hypocrite".

He drew attention from media crew gathering at the place to cover news about the possible arrest of the former abbot.

Mr Chartchai told reporters he had a happy family some 30 years ago before his life was ruined when he and his wife were introduced to the temple by her relatives.

Since then, his family had been persuaded to donate money and assets to the temple. They had sold their house, a souvenir shop, two land plots in Bangkok’s Don Muang district and stocks to get cash for donations to the temple. All of their savings also went to the temple as Phra Dhammajayo had kept telling them to make donations, he claimed. 

A former engineer accuses Wat Phra Dhammakaya of destroying his family after he and his wife were persuaded to sell everything they had to make donations. (Photo by Pongpat Wongyala)

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