The warrant was issued on Thursday (Nov 17) in relation to the alleged forest encroachment by the World Peace Valley Meditation Centre at Khao Yai in Pak Chong district, said deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul yesterday (Nov 18).
The arrest warrant was requested by the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division under the Royal Thai Police, Pol Gen Srivara said.
Pol Gen Srivara said that the case relating to the alleged forest encroachment by the World Peace Valley Meditation Centre has a 15-year-statute of limitations.
The latest warrant has assigned police to arrest the abbot and hand him over to the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division, Pol Gen Srivara said.
The abbot is not an "influential figure" so no special operation to arrest him is needed, the deputy police chief added.
Pol Gen Srivara brushed aside concerns that Phra Dhammajayo’s followers would again obstruct police efforts to arrest the abbot as they did earlier with officials from the Department of Special Investigation (DSI). Anyone who hinders officials will face legal action, he said.
He said there is no need for police to immediately use force and raid the temple and arrest the abbot because the case has a long statute of limitations.
He strongly insisted that police are not trying to delay arresting the abbot. The issue is a delicate one and officials will have to handle the matter carefully to avoid damaging the reputation of the monastic community as a whole, the deputy police chief said.
Previously, the police had only assisted and supported the DSI’s operations to arrest Phra Dhammajayo, but this time they are directly responsible for arresting the monk, Pol Gen Srivara said.
The meditation centre at Khao Yai has come under scrutiny following accusations that it encroached on SorPorKor agricultural reform land, which was allocated to poor and landless farmers for agricultural purposes.
According to a survey of the mediation centre site by the Nakhon Ratchasima land office, the centre can only prove it owns 293 rai covering 13 land plots. It cannot prove it owns the remaining 187 rai.
Nakhon Ratchasima land officer Pairoj Buanuam said earlier that his office carried out a thorough inspection of the meditation facility following a request by the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division.
The centre, he said, presented land title deeds covering 62 rai for three land plots and NorSor 3 Gor documents for 231 rai covering another 10 land plots, but had no documentation for the rest.
The documents presented by the centre were issued lawfully, Mr Pairoj said.
Of the 13 plots of land, 11 were owned by the Tawan Dhamma Foundation and the other two by private individuals.
According to Mr Pairoj, the rest of the meditation centre sits on a state-run Lam Takong self-help settlement project, established in 1967, to give 280,000 rai of land to locals affected by the construction of the Lam Takong dam.
The abbot is already facing another two arrest warrants. So far, he has not been apprehended.
On May 17, the Criminal Court approved an arrest warrant for Phra Dhammajayo for alleged involvement in money laundering and receiving stolen property in connection with the multi-million-baht Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC) embezzlement scandal.
The arrest warrant was requested by the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) after the abbot was summoned to hear the charges at the DSI's office, though he had postponed meetings with DSI investigators, citing severe ailments.
The DSI made its first attempt to arrest Phra Dhammajayo at Wat Phra Dhammakaya temple in Pathum Thani’s Khlong Luang district on June 16 where he is allegedly holed up but failed as his followers gathered en masse and blocked authorities from entering.
He also faces an arrest warrant issued by the Loei Provincial Court on Aug 15 after a police probe found Wat Dhammakaya’s meditation facility in Loei’s Phu Rua encroached on a forest reserve.
According to a police investigation, the meditation facility encroaches on 45 rai of the Phu Peuy, Phu Kithao and Phu Rua forest reserves.
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