Police remain baffled about wanted monk
Ex-abbot 'may have fled to the North'
National police chief Chakthip Chaijinda declined Wednesday to confirm whether Phra Dhammajayo, the embattled former abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, has fled to a border province in the North as rumoured.
Neither did Pol Gen Chakthip confirm nor reject rumours quoting temple followers as saying they had not seen Phra Dhammajayo since April. The national police chief only said "that could be a lie".
Pol Gen Chakthip said he "didn't want to go into detail about the matter" and the truth was that no time frame had been set for the arrest of the monk.
On Wednesday, the Democrat ex-MP Chanchai Issarasenarak said a source had told him that Phra Dhammajayo had left the temple for a northern region, which is why police forces did not raid the temple in their latest siege on Tuesday.
Phra Dhammajayo was indicted on money-laundering charges in connection with the multi-billion-baht Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative embezzlement scandal. The monk is also the subject of warrants for alleged forest encroachment by the temple's meditation facilities in Nakhon Ratchasima and Loei provinces.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his deputy, Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, had aired concerns about the possibility the attempt to deal with the temple and its former abbot risked going awry and affecting a large number of people.
He also said the move on Tuesday by several temple supporters taking a public road to perform prayers was believed to be a tactic created to lure authorities into a trap.
At Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Pathum Thani, another rumour was spread Wednesday that five additional companies of crowd-control police would be deployed to bolster existing security forces stationed near the temple, in a bid to pressure the temple.
But there was no sign of such a deployment throughout the day.
On Tuesday about 1,000 police together with Department of Special Investigation officials launched an operation to surround the temple, which led many to assume it was the start of a move to raid it.
However, the forces ended their operation in the afternoon after only removing barriers which were preventing access to the temple's gates.
Deputy police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul insisted the police deployed outside the temple early on Tuesday were not there to arrest the former abbot. He rated Tuesday's operation as satisfactory.
Several tents erected by the temple's followers on a public road that lies between Khlong L1 and L2 still were still there Wednesday, despite the temple's promise to police on Tuesday to remove them immediately.
More green plastic nets and several concrete posts were installed as additional barriers on the public road. The overall situation at the temple, however, appears more or less as normal as it was before Tuesday's operation.
Gate 7, the main entrance to the temple on Bang Khan-Nong Suea Road in Khlong Luang district was reopened on Wednesday, and security guards began allowing cars to enter. The gate was shut on Tuesday.
At gates 5 and 6 of the temple, four temple monks were seen coming out to take alms as usual, while a number of temple followers were seen praying on a nearby public road. Those who wanted to enter Gate 5 were required to show their ID cards.
Trucks took food and fruit to those temple followers who continued their prayers on the public road.
Soldiers and DSI officers stationed at the police's security checkpoint on Bang Khan-Nong Suea Road, meanwhile, maintained stringent security to deter any attempts to stir up violence.