Provincial abbot agrees to help DSI

Provincial abbot agrees to help DSI

Security at temple upped with CCTV

The Dhammakaya sect's security team has erected concertina
The Dhammakaya sect's security team has erected concertina "razor wire", added security cameras and warned that followers are becoming impatient as its row with the DSI deepens. (Pattanapong Hirunard)

The Pathum Thani province chief monk has agreed to liaise between the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and Phra Dhammajayo, who is wanted by the DSI in a money laundering case, over the DSI's request for the latter to surrender.

DSI chief Paisit Wongmuang revealed Tuesday after a meeting with chief monk Phra Theprattanasuthi on Monday evening that Phra Theprattanasuthi understood the situation and agreed to help.

Phra Dhammajayo is the abbot of Wat Dhammakaya, in Pathum Thani's Khlong Luang district. Phra Theprattanasuthi is the abbot's boss in the hierarchical Sangha administration system in Thailand.

Phra Theprattanasuthi also promised to encourage the embattled abbot to abide by the terms of the law as soon as possible, according to Pol Col Paisit.

The abbot 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 (KCUC) embezzlement case.

The DSI hopes to wrap up the case as soon as possible and indict the suspect within two to three weeks from now, he said.

Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya confirmed Phra Theprattanasuthi is working well with law enforcement officials.

As for those followers of Phra Dhammajayo who are accusing the DSI of treating the abbot unfairly, Gen Paiboon said they should try to distinguish between their faith in the monk and the DSI's duty to enforce the law in the money-laundering case.

Those followers should also think about the thousands of people who had lost their savings to the KCUC embezzlement and who have been fighting for justice for over a decade, said the minister.

"And if the abbot thinks he has not been involved in the scandal, he should come forward and fight for justice," said Gen Paiboon.

However, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said authorities have attempted to arrest Phra Dhammajayo but with confrontations between authorities and abbot fans appearing imminent plans to arrest him have been shelved for the time being to ease tensions.

Phra Mahanopphon Punyachayo, an assistant director of Wat Dhammakaya's communication office, said the temple had sent a letter to the prime minister petitioning him to probe alleged violations committed by the DSI of the abbot's rights.

According to Phra Mahanopphon, the DSI failed to send a medical official to check Phra Dhammajayo's physical condition at Wat Dhammakaya.

The abbot says he is too ill to visit the DSI to answer his charges as claimed and has invited the DSI or Medical Council to send experts to verify his condition.

Instead, the DSI simply obtained an arrest warrant for the abbot, he said. This clearly violated the patient's rights, Phra Mahanopphon said.

The monk confirmed the temple had erected barbed wire on top of certain parts of its fence to keep intruders out and installed more security cameras to deter violence.

The temple claims the security measures are necessary as it fears the influence of a "third element". The temple has also parked a backhoe at one entrance while it strictly searches all vehicles entering the premises.

Metal barriers have been put up to block the fifth and sixth gates of the temple, a source said.

The 15-metre-high security fort of the temple is now equipped with a long-range security camera system, said the source.

National police chief Chakthip Chaijinda, meanwhile, said the DSI and the Royal Thai Police are working closely on the Phra Dhammajayo case.

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