Dhammakaya disciples' spokesman has 'fled the country'

Dhammakaya disciples' spokesman has 'fled the country'

Ong-art Thamnitha holds a press conference at Wat Phra Dhammakaya on Dec 11. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Ong-art Thamnitha holds a press conference at Wat Phra Dhammakaya on Dec 11. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The spokesman of Wat Phra Dhammakaya's disciples has fled the country, evading a police arrest warrant for inciting unrest, according an informed source at the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) source.

The source said a DSI intelligence report said that Ong-art Thamnitha was no longer to be seen at the temple and was believed to have left the country, but not through an ordinary exit route. 

Authorities were checking with neighbouring countries he might have fled to, the source said.

The Criminal Court on Thursday approved a police request for a warrant to arrest Mr Ong-art on a charge of inciting public unrest in violation of Section 116 of the Criminal Code for comments made at a media briefing. He warned of likely resistance by Dhammakaya disciples to any attempt to arrest Phra Dhammajayo, the founder and now honorary abbot.

The source expected the DSI would seek a new court warrant to search the temple and arrest the former abbot after the New Year, now the latest warrants have expired.

The DSI would gradually increase pressure, taking legal action against people allegedly involved in illegal activities at the temple. Officers would also step up an investigation into a group of monks who had wrongfully taken several hundred million baht donated to the temple, for use in the stock market, the source said.

Representatives of the National Office of Buddhism (NOB) on Tuesday testifed to DSI investigators on the responsibilities and authority of the abbot and acting abbot of the temple, the source said.

NOB representatives said they would prepare a report on the change of the acting abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, and submit a report to the DSI on Jan 10.

The monastic chiefs at the provincial and tambon levels of Pathum Thani had asked to postpone their meeting with the DSI until after the New Year.

The DSI had sent a summons for Phra Thattacheevo, the acting abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, to the temple, but no one there took it.  The summons was, therefore, posted in front of the temple and a complaint was filed with Khlong Luang district police.  The monk is wanted for questioning for providing shelter for Phra Dhammajayo, who is now regarded as a criminal suspect.

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