Prayut, Prawit apologise over treatment of Phra Buddha Isara

Prayut, Prawit apologise over treatment of Phra Buddha Isara

Suvit Thongprasert (in white T-shirt), formerly Phra Buddha Isara, is escorted by corrections officials after he was defrocked on Thursday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)
Suvit Thongprasert (in white T-shirt), formerly Phra Buddha Isara, is escorted by corrections officials after he was defrocked on Thursday. (Photo by Apichart Jinakul)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his deputy Prawit Wongsuwon have apologised for the handling of the arrest of a former monk after several people complained excessive force was used.

Crime suppression police arrested five senior monks in pre-dawn raids on three temples in Bangkok on Thursday.

At Wat Sa Ket, they arrested three monks while the abbot, who was also wanted on an arrest warrant, could not be found. At Wat Sam Phraya, they took into custody two monks. At Wat Samphanthawongsaram in the Yaowarat area, they could not locate the abbot, also wanted on a warrant.

The monks face charges of money laundering linked to temple fund fraud based on an investigation of money trails.

At the same time, another team of police raided Wat Ornoi in Nakhon Pathom where they arrested the abbot, Phra Buddha Isara.

He was charged with robbery, illegal association and running an illegal secret society. The charges relate to an incident in which his guards beat up two plainclothes policemen, took their valuables and detained them for questioning during the People's Democratic Reform Committee protests in Bangkok in 2014.

Phra Buddha Isara, whose layman’s name is Suvit Thongprasert, also faced the charge of forging and using royal initials without permission when he cast a batch of amulets in 2011. He was denied bail and has been defrocked.

Unlike the teams sent to the three Bangkok temples, the one deployed at Wat Ornoi comprised heavily armed commandos.

After a video clip of the arrest made the rounds in social media, several people questioned the use of such force against a man of religion and the double standard in the raids.

On Saturday, government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Gen Prayut apologised to the people for the rough handling of the former abbot and said he had reprimanded officials and told them to change their operation methods.

“The prime minister also apologised to Mr Suvit who might have been affected by the operation,” Lt Gen Sansern said.

A few hours later, Gen Prawit, who is also the defence minister, said he did not take the issue lightly.

“Gen Prawit had warned officials not to use excessive force again as he was worried the arrest would hurt the feelings of disciples and the public,” said defence spokesman Lt Gen Kongcheep Tantravanich.

“Gen Prawit would like to apologise to the people on behalf of the police for the inappropriate actions on temple grounds," the spokesman said.

He said the security forces would ensure the former monk would be treated fairly.


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