Drones the latest weapon in Dhammakaya tug of war

Drones the latest weapon in Dhammakaya tug of war

Young white-clad devotees greet Buddhists arriving at Wat Dhammakaya in Pathum Thani on Saturday, a Buddhist holy day. The Dek Dee V-Star programme instructs young people in dhamma and holds Buddhist and social activities for them. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)
Young white-clad devotees greet Buddhists arriving at Wat Dhammakaya in Pathum Thani on Saturday, a Buddhist holy day. The Dek Dee V-Star programme instructs young people in dhamma and holds Buddhist and social activities for them. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)

PATHUM THANI - Investigators have taken aerial photos of Wat Dhammakaya using drones and helicopters while the temple continues to seek a delay in the arrest of its abbot.

The images will be used to help officials plan their movements if and when they enter the temple grounds, Pol Col Paisit Wongmuang, chief of the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), said on Saturday.

DSI officials who mixed with crowds practising dhamma at the temple on the holy day on Saturday reported that Phra Dhammajayo remained in his residence on the premises.

Wat Dhammakaya is seeking to delay the abbot's arrest while the DSI hopes for intervention by the Supreme Sangha Council in the emotionally and politically charged case.

Ong-art Dhammanitta, a spokesman for the Dhammakaya disciples' group, said on Saturday that Phra Dhammajayo's lawyer on Friday had filed an appeal against the invocation of the arrest warrant.

As well, the temple is awaiting a response from the Medical Council of Thailand to a request from the abbot's doctors to have specialists examine the 72-year-old monk. The DSI has questioned the credibility of medical certificates issued earlier stating that the abbot was too ill to travel.

Mr Ong-art said the disciples were urging the DSI to delay taking any action until the court decides on the appeal and the medical council has responded.

Phra Dhammajayo is wanted on an arrest warrant approved by the Criminal Court on charges of money-laundering and receiving stolen property worth 1.2 billion baht in connection with the 12-billion-baht Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative embezzlement case. He has denied knowing that the funds he received were stolen.

Investigators had given the abbot a deadline of Thursday to report for questioning. He was brought to the Khlong Luang police station on that day but doctors said he suffered an attack of vertigo while attempting to sit up in the van and was taken back to his spaceship-shaped mega-temple in Pathum Thani.

On Friday, the justice minister said the DSI would not use force in arresting the monk but would seek help from the Supreme Sangha Council (SSC), the governing body of Buddhist monks.

Mano Laohavanich, an ex-monk at Wat Dhammakaya and former close aide to Phra Dhammajayo, on Friday suggested the DSI ask the acting supreme patriarch Somdet Phra Maha Ratchamangalacharn, also known as Somdet Chuang, to step in and help.

Somdet Chuang, the 90-year-old abbot of Wat Paknam, is the ex-officio chairman of the SSC. Phra Dhammajayo was ordained at Wat Paknam in 1969 and Somdet Chuang was his preceptor. A year later, Phra Dhammajayo founded a Buddhist training centre which became Wat Dhammakaya 11 years later.

The DSI is also pressing charges against Somdet Chuang related to the presence of illegally imported antique cars at his temple.


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