Police enter temple, search for Phra Dhammajayo begins
published : 16 Feb 2017 at 15:24
updated: 16 Feb 2017 at 18:46
writer: Online Reporters
PATHUM THANI - Police and Department of Special Investigation (DSI) officials entered the sprawling grounds of Wat Dhammakaya on Thursday afternoon and began a search for the temple's wanted founder, Phra Dhammajayo.
They entered the temple grounds through the gate closest to the monk's residence.
Department of Special Investigation director-general Pol Col Paisit Wongmuang led officers through through Gate 1, meeting no resistance from monks or followers.
Gate 1 of the temple in Khlong Luang district in Pathum Thani leads directly to the place where Phra Dhammajayo stays. Monks at the temple refused to say whether he was still inside.
Reporters were not allowed to enter the compound.
The search followed earlier negotiations, after thousands of troops and unarmed police surrounded the temple compound early in the morning, preventing any disciples from entering.
About 7.10am Pol Capt Thas Laothawee, deputy operation commander of DSI,talked to a temple representative whose face was covered. The deputy commander handed the rerpresentative a note through the closed main entry, Gate 7, containing names and phone numbers for use in coordinating the operation.
Pol Capt Thas said he would coordinate the search.
Later DSI deputy director-general Suriya Singhakamol, some subordinates and companies of riot police approached Gate 7 on Bang Khan-Nong Sua Road in tambon Khlong Song.
Phra Sanitwong Wuthiwangso led DSI officials into the temple grounds for a talk.
Disciples were trying to enter the temple, but police were blocking them. Monks approached gates from the inside to sit and pray with the waiting followers.
Phra Sanitwong told reporters the DSI planned to search the temple in the afternoon and that he had not seen Phra Dhammajayo for eight months.
The sect's founder and former abbot, Phra Dhammajayo, 72, is wanted on several arrest warrants for alleged laundering money and receiving stolen assets in connection with the multi-billion-baht embezzlement of the Klongchan Credit Union Co-operative. His temple's meditation centres also allegedly encroach on forest reserves in Loei, Nakhon Ratchasima and Phangnga provinces.
He has refused to meet authorities for questioning and acknowledge charges for nearly a year, on the pretext of being too ill.
- Earlier report: Temple takeover
Video by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill