Srisuwan to petition over Buddha Isara's arrest

Srisuwan to petition over Buddha Isara's arrest

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)

Political activist Srisuwan Janya said he will on Monday file a petition with the Office of the Ombudsman and the National Human Rights Commission over the alleged use of exessive force by commando police in the arrest of former monk Phra Buddha Isara in a raid on Wat Or Noi temple in Nakhon Pathom’s Kamphaeng Saen district on Thursday morning.

According to media reports, Mr Srisuwan, secretary-general of the Thai Constitution Protection Association, said he will file the petition with the Office of the Ombudsman at 10am and the NHRC at 11am.

He said that video clips posted on social media showed a team of armed commando police breaking open the former monk's bedroom door and arresting him while he was still in bed. This drew heavy criticism of the police action on social media, he said, raising the question of whether the action could be regarded as sacrilegious, a violation of Section 206 of the Criminal Code and Sections 27, 29 and 67 of the 2017 Constitution.

The former Phra Buddha Issara was charged with robbery and running an illegal secret society after 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.

The former monk, whose layman name is Suwit Thongprasert, also faces a charge of forgery for using royal initials without permission when he cast a batch of amulets in 2011. He was disrobed and put in jail, pending further legal proceedings.

Mr Srisuwan said according to the law, Mr Suwit is still innocent and should not be treated as a person already found guilty of criminal offences.

Moreover, he continued, the former monk had never shown any sign of trying to escape arrest, but continued to file cases with Crime Suppression Division police and attend court hearings in many cases. The police should have issued a summons for him to hear the charges instead of going to the temple in large numbers, damaging property and using the kind of language appropriate for terrorists or perpetrators of serious crimes, he added.

Mr Srisuwan said although Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsowon had offered apologies to the former monk and his disciples, this could not guarantee that police would not do this again in the future.

Well-known social critic Sulak Sivaraksa viewed the matter differently. He said the police action was appropriate.

On his Facebook page, Mr Sulak posted an excerpt of his interview with Amarin TV, saying that the police had not overacted as the former Phra Buddha Isara was a powerful person who took part in the Bangkok shutdown protest led by the People's Democratic Reform Committee. Therefore, it was not possible for the police to know whether the former monk had stored weapons in his living quarters.

Mr Sulak said the former Phra Buddha Isara's case was different from that of senior monks arrested on the same day and charged with embezzlement of temple funds. Those senior monks had never been involved in any political activities or acted as influential persons, he said, adding that they should nevertheless have been disrobed long ago.

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