Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has warned the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) against appealing to the acting supreme patriarch and Sangha Supreme Council (SSC) to help investigators meet embattled abbot Phra Dhammajayo, saying it could stir up more conflict.
Phra Dhammajayo, abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya, is wanted on an arrest warrant approved by the Criminal Court on charges of laundering money and receiving stolen property worth 1.2 billion baht in connection with the 12-billion-baht Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative embezzlement case.
The abbot has cited illness as the reason for being unable to turn himself in to DSI officials to acknowledge charges against him. He is believed to be staying in the temple.
Mr Wissanu said Monday acting Supreme Patriarch Somdet Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn should not deal with all kinds of petitions. Instead, it is the ecclesiastical provincial governor, who supervises Phra Dhammajayo, who must handle the issue.
To approach the acting supreme patriarch immediately would be a misstep, he said.
The acting Supreme Patriarch, the abbot of Wat Pak Nam Phasi Charoen, is said to have a close relationship with Phra Dhammajayo, whom he mentored at his ordination in 1969.
Mr Wissanu said if there is an attempt to ask the acting supreme patriarch to liaise between investigators and Phra Dhammajayo, it should be done behind closed doors. "If the acting supreme patriarch cannot [step in to help] or avoid doing it, people will turn to attack Wat Pak Nam Phasi Charoen instead of Wat Phra Dhammakaya," he said.
Mr Wissanu also disagreed with the approach of asking the SSC to mediate.
"If the SSC's role fails to satisfy the public, the body would be blamed," Mr Wissanu said. "Why do we keep creating one crisis after another?"
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya has attempted to quash rumours the National Council for Peace and Order is demanding 2 billion baht to end the lawsuit involving Phra Dhammajayo.
Gen Paiboon said the DSI was not targeting anyone in particular in this embezzlement case and if Phra Dhammajayo maintains his innocence, he must fight the case under the due process of justice.
DSI chief Paisit Wongmuang, responding to calls for DSI officials to enter the temple and arrest Phra Dhammajayo without seeking a search warrant, said it is important to follow legal steps carefully to prevent future problems.
He said the problem can be settled peacefully if it is done through the clergy governing process.
The DSI said a police helicopter might be deployed to conduct an aerial survey of the temple.
Also Monday, Police spokesman Krisana Pattanacharoen confirmed police have agreed to the DSI's request for police reinforcements should the DSI need them to arrest the abbot. He said it is up to the DSI to decide if the abbot will be served with the arrest warrant inside the temple.
The DSI has asked to use the Border Patrol Police Region 1 in Pathum Thani to assemble officers and deploy the helicopter in the arrest operation.