Prayut tightens security at Wat Phra Dhammakaya

Prayut tightens security at Wat Phra Dhammakaya

A worker installs metal sheets in place of barbed wire on the fence of Wat Phra Dhammakaya on Thursday as the abbot continues to refuse to acknowledge money-laundering charges. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)
A worker installs metal sheets in place of barbed wire on the fence of Wat Phra Dhammakaya on Thursday as the abbot continues to refuse to acknowledge money-laundering charges. (Photo by Pattanapong Hirunard)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered stepped up security at Wat Phra Dhammakaya to prevent any incidents as tens of thousands of followers gather at the temple where the abbot, accused of money laundering, is claiming ill health and evading the law.

After hearing reports that red-shirt guards from the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) were staying in the temple in Khlong Luang district of Pathum Thani, Gen Prayut said at Government House on Thursday that he had ordered security authorities to enact measures to ensure safety, including weapon searches of visitors.

Gen Prayut said people's safety must be ensured as a "party" could enter the temple and take some kind of action and put the blame on the government. He said officials must not carry weapons in the temple.

"We do not want anyone to set up an out-of-control situation like in 2010. I ask all parties to think about that. The concern is there.

"I am worried about the two to three thousand people who are praying there. If just one of them faces danger, which of us will be sad? Will Buddhism be damaged?" the prime minister said, referring to the UDD demonstrations six years ago.

Gen Prayut urged abbot Phra Dhammajayo to defend himself within the justice system rather than flee the country.

The management of Wat Phra Dhammakaya restricted access to the temple after Phra Dhammajayo failed to acknowledge charges of laundering money and receiving stolen property with the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) on May 26 and now faces an arrest warrant.

The DSI has accused the 72-year-old abbot of receiving 1.2 billion baht from Supachai Srisupa-aksorn, former chair of the embezzled Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative. Supachai, a former treasurer of the abbot's temple, has been sentenced to 16 years in jail.

DSI director-general Paisit Wongmuang said on Thursday that Phra Dhammajayo must be examined by doctors to prove that he is too ill to meet the DSI to acknowledge charges outside the temple.

However, the DSI did not have to wait for the abbot and could proceed with the case with public prosecutors, he said.

Phra Maha Nopporn Boonyachayo, of Wat Phra Dhammakaya's communications office, said on Thursday that crowds of disciples were entering the temple for monthly merit-making. This monthly activity had been going on since the temple's foundation in 1970, and participants usually numbered about 50,000.

About 300 monks from the Northeast had also visited the temple to give moral support to Phra Dhammajayo, Phra Maha Nopporn said.

Followers on Thursday filed complaints against critics of the abbot and the temple and accused the DSI of being prejudiced.

Somsak Lolekha, president of the Medical Council, said on Thursday that the council was ready to send its directors and doctors to check the abbot. However the abbot must agree to undergo the check and let the council publicise the results.

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