DSI cuts off internet, phones around temple

DSI cuts off internet, phones around temple

A merit-making rite takes place at Klong Luang market as monks and novices from Wat Phra Dhammakaya leave the temple grounds to collect alms. Some of the devotees brought large amounts of dried food, fruit and vegetables from the market to the temple after monks complained about food shortages. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)
A merit-making rite takes place at Klong Luang market as monks and novices from Wat Phra Dhammakaya leave the temple grounds to collect alms. Some of the devotees brought large amounts of dried food, fruit and vegetables from the market to the temple after monks complained about food shortages. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has cut off internet and mobile phone communications in and around Wat Phra Dhammakaya in efforts to "stop the spread of false and distorted information".

DSI director-general Paisit Wongmuang said the measure was necessary after some of the temple followers used their mobile devices and social media to obstruct the search operation and incite chaos.

The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) has been asked to coordinate with the operators and providers of mobile phone and data services in cutting off wireless networks in the temple and a 500-metre radius around it.

It remains undecided how long the shutdown will last, Pol Col Paisit said, assuring that it is part of measures to keep the 2,300-rai temple complex a "controlled zone".

Mobile phone and internet providers yesterday sent text messages to their customers apologising for the inconvenience as they were asked to restrict the services in the controlled area covering Klong Luang, Klong 1, Klong 2 and the back of Talat Thai.

The DSI's move to turn off the wireless networks comes a week after the launch of an operation to arrest Phra Dhammajayo, the former abbot of the temple.

Phra Dhammajayo is wanted in connection with the multi-billion-baht embezzlement of the Klongchan Credit Union Co-operative.

Officials have sealed off the temple grounds in Pathum Thani's Klong Luang district to search for the monk after Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha invoked Section 44 of the interim charter to enable the hunt.

However, a week has passed and officials have only searched parts of the temple complex as many temple followers continue to pressure officials into ending the temple search.

One of 14 senior monks summoned to report to the DSI yesterday showed up to acknowledge charges of disobeying an order, said DSI deputy director-general Songsak Raksaksakul.

Phra Maha Nopporn Punyachayo was questioned over his actions and released, he said.

The summonses for the 14 monks including Phra Dhammajayo were issued last Sunday by the DSI chief after a tense stand-off.

Pol Col Songsak yesterday clarified that resident monks are allowed to pass through Gate 7 when leaving the temple to collect alms and on returning while the temple disciples are also allowed to deliver their offerings through Gate 7 only.

Myanmar Buddhist monk and anti-Muslim leader Wirathu yesterday posted a message on his Facebook page in support of Wat Phra Dhammakaya.

Meanwhile, his supporters also rallied and submitted a petition at the Thai embassy in Yangon.

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