Ex-activist monk may answer one charge

Ex-activist monk may answer one charge

Phra Buddha Isara wears civilian clothes after being defrocked for detention at the Bangkok Special Remand on Thursday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
Phra Buddha Isara wears civilian clothes after being defrocked for detention at the Bangkok Special Remand on Thursday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

The former Phra Buddha Isara will acknowledge only the charge involving the royal initials, while an attempt to immediately seek bail has been deferred, his lawyer said on Friday.

Theerayuth Wannakaysorn, a lawyer for the defrocked monk, said his client had agreed to the charges of forging and using the royal initials of the late king Bhumibol and Her Majesty the Queen of the late king without royal permission in the production of a batch of amulets.

The offences violate Sections 250 and 252 of the Criminal Code, punishable by 5-20 years in jail and a fine of 10,000 to 40,000 baht. 

The former monk will fight another charge of running an illegal secret organisation, known in Thai as ang-yee.

The first charge took place in 2011 when Wat Ornoi in Kamphaeng Saen district in Nakhon Pathom cast nak prok amulets with the royal initials on the back. Related authorities had denied ever seeing the application for the use of the royal initials in such production. 

The second charge of ang-yee happened in February 2014, when the then Phra Buddha Isara led the occupation of Chaeng Wattana Road, part of the operation Bangkok Shutdown by People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protesters to force the resignation of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

PDRC guards allegedly seized mobile phones and assets from two plainclothes Special Branch police working in the area even after they identified themselves. After taking them near a protest stage, the guards questioned them, beat them up and tortured them to force them to give up their phone screen-lock passwords. The two policemen were seriously injured when their boss picked them up from the former monk the next day. 

On Thursday, Phra Buddha Isara was interrogated after police raided his temple during a pre-dawn operation. At the time, he denied both charges.

Police have yet to wrap up the two cases as they have to interrogate more witnesses.

Although the ex-monk changed his mind about the royal initials charge, Mr Theerayuth said his client had no intention of violating the law regarding the monarchy as he had always shown loyalty to the royal family.

Phra Buddha Isara was disrobed at the Criminal Court in the evening after a bail request was rejected. He is being detained at the Bangkok Special Remand for 12 days.

His lawyer had planned to file a second bail request on Friday but he decided to postpone it until police wrap up the cases and forward them to state prosecutors for indictment.

Five more monks accused of temple fund embezzlement were also defrocked on Thursday after the Central Criminal Court for Corruption and Misconduct Cases did not allow them bail. They were detained at the same prison for the same period.

Two of them were from Wat Sam Phraya -- abbot Phra Phrom Dilok and his secretary, Phra Atthakit Sophon. Three were from Wat Sa ket -- assistant abbots Phra Sri Khunaporn, Phra Wichit Thammaporn and Phra Khru Siriwihankansomjit.

Police are hunting another two senior monks at large on embezzlement allegations. They are Wat Sa Ket abbot Phra Phrom Sitthi and Wat Samphanthawong assistant abbot Phra Phrom Methee.

Corrections Department director-general Pol Col Naras Savestanan said the disrobed monks are allowed to wear the white outfit during their transition from the monkhood to civilian life. After getting used to the change, they will be required to wear the brown prisoner uniform like everyone else.

The former Phra Buddha Isara is detained in a temporary zone, while the other five are in another area. All will be assigned to permanent zones next week, the official added.

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