Prayut denies links to ex-Phra Buddha Isara

Prayut denies links to ex-Phra Buddha Isara

In this Jan 27, 2012 widely shared photo in social media from an unidentified source, former Phra Buddha Isara is seen with Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha (sitting second right), then army chief, and three of his predecessors -- Gen Prawit Wongsuwon (sitting third right), Gen Anupong Paochinda (sitting second left) and Gen Somtat Attanan (sitting third left).
In this Jan 27, 2012 widely shared photo in social media from an unidentified source, former Phra Buddha Isara is seen with Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha (sitting second right), then army chief, and three of his predecessors -- Gen Prawit Wongsuwon (sitting third right), Gen Anupong Paochinda (sitting second left) and Gen Somtat Attanan (sitting third left).

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has denied being close to a former monk arrested for robbery, illegal association and other charges last week.

Phra Buddha Isara, a co-leader of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), was arrested at Wat Ornoi in Nakhon Pathom on Thursday by a team of armed police.

A clip showing the arrest brought criticism among some social media users, mainly PDRC supporters, who questioned whether the use of force was warranted and appropriate.

Police argued the apprehension was by the book considering the severity of the charges and the fact that the monk’s guards, who were present at the monastery at the time of arrest, had been known to carry weapons and resort to violence during PDRC protests in 2013-14. 

The prime minister and his deputy, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, on Saturday made a rare move of apologising to the people for police’s actions. Gen Prayut also publicly apologised to the monk. 

Old photos of the monk with the pair have since been widely shared in social media, suggesting they were close.

On Monday, Gen Prayut ruled out such speculation.

“When were they [the photos] taken? I respect all monks and during that time I visited several temples. It was a common practice then.

“If I remember correctly on that day he invited me and three other ex-army commanders to join the blessing ceremony of a set of amulets. He believed having army chiefs present would make the amulets more powerful.”

Gen Prawit, who was also seen in the photos, declined to comment on Monday.

Interior Minister Gen Anupong Paochinda, another former army chief in the photo, confirmed the photo was taken at a blessing ceremony.

“As a Buddhist, I’ve always been willing to accept such invitations, and not just that from Mr Suvit [layman's name of the monk].”  

Gen Prayut also on Monday dismissed a call for him to sack the police chief following the criticism.

“I already apologised for the inappropriate treatment. I urge all to view the situation from both sides. Officials were trying to do their job but some may find it an overkill. Actions are being taken against the officials involved.

“I refuse to work under pressure. We have to follow protocols or chaos ensues”.

The former Phra Buddha Isara 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.


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