Temple siege heightens, both sides strengthen positions

Temple siege heightens, both sides strengthen positions

Monks, followers build barricades inside Wat Dhammakaya

Police prevent a white-garbed nun from entering Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Khlong Luang district of Pathum Thani on Friday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Police prevent a white-garbed nun from entering Wat Phra Dhammakaya in Khlong Luang district of Pathum Thani on Friday. (Photo by Chanat Katanyu)

PATHUM THANI - Soldiers supplied with riot control gear massed outside Wat Phra Dhammakaya on Friday, as monks and followers inside built barricades several lines deep near the gates.

All entry to the sprawling temple grounds was prohibited, only people inside opting to leave were allowed to pass through the gates.

Soldiers supplied with shields, helmets and batons waited in front of Gate 4 of the temple, but were not suited up.

Temple management made an announcement for followers inside to be prepared.

Behind Gate 4 there were five layers of barricades made from large concrete pipes, concrete blocks, containers and fencing. Behind the barricades about 500 monks and followers sat and prayed.

Representatives of disciples railed against authorities' preventing access to the grounds and a lack of food for the thousands of people and monks inside. Authorities allowed 1,000 meals to be delivered to the temple through Gate 7. 

On Friday afternoon authorities blanked out mobile phone and internet services to the temple and a 500-metre radius around it.

Paisit Wongmuang, director-general of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), said officials would continue their attempts to arrest Phra Dhammajayo, the former abbot of the temple.

The 72-year-old sect founder has been sought for the last year for alleged forest encroachment by his temple's branches in several provinces, and money laundering and receiving stolen assets in connection with the multi-billion-baht embezzlement of the Klongchan Credit Union Co-operative.

He, through his followers, has defied all demands that he report to authorities to answer the charges, pleading ill health. After unsuccessful searches of parts of the temple, authorities are not even certain he remains inside.

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