Evidence points to monk still in hiding at temple

Evidence points to monk still in hiding at temple

Police officers on Saturday put up signs warning against the removal or tampering with evidence at Wat Phra Dhammakaya.
Police officers on Saturday put up signs warning against the removal or tampering with evidence at Wat Phra Dhammakaya.

Security authorities have information indicating Phra Dhammajayo has been hiding in Wat Phra Dhammakaya even though he has not been seen in public, a source at the Justice Ministry says.

However, the source said an operation to arrest the controversial monk would be reviewed following the appointment of new justice minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana.

"After the new minister takes office, there will be a meeting on this case. Mr Suwaphan was in charge of the National Office of Buddhism and the National Intelligence Agency," the source said.

Even though the former abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya has not been sighted for some time, security agencies have strong evidence to conclude he is still in the temple's compound, the source said.

"So far every security agency has agreed that the monk has been staying in the temple even though he has never been seen in public. Their information indicates he is still there," the source said.

The monk is wanted on charges of money-laundering and receiving stolen property in connection with the multi-billion-baht Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative embezzlement scandal, and alleged forest encroachment by the temple's meditation facilities in the provinces of Nakhon Ratchasima and Loei.

According to the source, authorities decided not to proceed with the planned raid, despite search warrants, after they had found some hard-core disciples were prepared to create a violent situation to stir up trouble for officials.

These hardliners allegedly "planned to hurt themselves" when authorities conducted the raid. Their next step was to publish photos of injured disciples and lodge a complaint with the United Nations.

The DSI's failure to search the temple's compound to arrest the monk would not affect its future requests for search warrants, the source said. Security agencies had assessed the situation and determined they should not proceed to avoid a possible clash with disciples.

The Criminal Court had approved four search warrants sought by the DSI valid for Dec 13-16.

The source said a key challenge was how to keep the operation plan classified. He said the temple got wind of it and mobilised its supporters to the temple.

"The weakness that needs to be addressed is information. The temple was tipped off about the search warrant and they had time to mobilise people. We have to launch a surprise raid," the source said.

The source said that authorities will press charge against the disciples and the monks for allegedly aiding and providing shelter to the suspect.

Meanwhile, Wat Phra Dhammakaya followers continued to stream into the temple yesterday following reports that authorities were gearing up to demolish illegally built structures at the temple.

Earlier, officials from the Pathum Thani provincial administrative office inspected access bridges at the temple and found that several were illegally built to control access to the temple.

The followers were required to register and only those with ID cards issued by the temple were allowed entry. Vehicles were allowed through Gate 7 only and were all subject to tight inspection.

Khlong Sam tambon administrative organisation recently filed a complaint against the temple for breaching a building control law and asked the temple to dismantle several structures including a bell tower. A temple spokesman argued the local authority's accusation was false because it was based on Google Map images which were more than two years old.

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