Followers 'asked monks to ignore summons'

Followers 'asked monks to ignore summons'

Monks protest at Wat Phra Dhammakaya on Monday. (Photo by Krit Phromsakla Na Sakolnakorn)
Monks protest at Wat Phra Dhammakaya on Monday. (Photo by Krit Phromsakla Na Sakolnakorn)

The 14 monks at Wat Phra Dhammakaya who were required to report to the authorities by 6pm on Sunday did not respond to the summons because they were asked not to do so by temple followers, the temple's spokesman said on Monday.

The summons issued by Department of Special Investigation (DSI) director-general Paisit Wongmuang required that the 14 senior monks, including the former abbot Phra Dhammajayo, report to him at the Region 1 Border Patrol Police Bureau in Pathum Thani's Khlong Luang district by 6pm.

Phra Sanitwong Wutthiwangso said the monks had not reported to the DSI chief because they were asked not to by the temple's followers. The situation was still very fragile and filled with distrust and suspicion.

Moreover, all of the senior monks, except those who were sick, were unavailable or on overseas trips, and had already met with the authorities on Feb 16, the first day of the search within the temple grounds for Phra Dhammajayo.

There had also been reports on social media that those who reported to the authorities had been detained. This made them reluctant to go, Phra Sanitwong said.

Phra Sanitwong did not say when the 14 monks would respond to the summons.

The monk also said the clash between the temple's disciples and officials near Gate 5 on Sunday arose from a misunderstanding.  The temple and the disciples wanted to share the space with the authorities, but some wanted to leave the temple grounds to eat.

Phra Sanitwong said he would find out why some disciples brought out the chairs and steel barriers that led to the clash, which caused some injuries.

The monk said the temple wanted the lifting of the order issued under Section 44 of the interim constitution declaring it to be a controlled area.  He said the authorities should concentrate only on looking for Phra Dhammajayo, who is named in arrest warrants. The temple had cooperated well with them.

It was not necessary to declare the temple a restricted area. The monks and followers should be allowed to travel in and out of the  grounds and perform religious activities as usual, Phra Sanitwong said.

Justice Minister Suwaphan Tanyuvardhana said that as of Feb 16 the DSI was confident Phra Dhammajayo was still in the temple.

However, since then the DSI had become uncertain as the whereabouts of the elusive monk. A statement by Phra Thammasak Charuthammo that he saw Phra Dhammajayo flee the temple on Feb 16 stressed that uncertainty.

Armed with information from the questioning of Phra Thammasak, the DSI would continue with the search, Mr Suwaphan said.

The justice minister said he would leave it to the authorities to decide how to handle the disciples and followers of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, who were reportedly turning up in large numbers, as they were empowered to by an order under Section 44.

Outsiders would not be allowed to enter the temple, Mr Suwaphan said.

Mr Suwaphan rejected as untrue rumours the authorities would seize control of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, detain and defrock the monks, and prohibit them attending a Pali language examination at Wat Khien Khet  on Feb 21-23.

Only those monks who came from other temples to stay at Wat Phra Dhammakaya would be asked to leave, he said.

He said the DSI is required to report the final result of the search to the government.  

"It will be all right if the search for Phra Dhammajayo fails.  But I would like to ask the Supreme Sangkha Council and monks in charge of the administration of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, and government officials, to join hands to solve the problem, to move in the same direction for the sake of social order," he said.

Asked about former Wat Dhammakaya monk Mano Laohawanich's request to join the government's search team, Mr Suwaphan said the officials in charge would decide that.

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