Authorities are also scrambling to verify whether the abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya is still at the temple, despite the abbot’s disciples insisting the monk is receiving medical treatment there.
Deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said efforts are being made to arrange for the embattled monk to surrender to police to answer the charges. Authorities are contacting the Pathum Thani provincial monastic committee and his aides to arrange his surrender.
He said police had sent a letter to the abbot at the temple demanding he report to police by the end of the month. He expressed confidence Phra Dhammajayo will surrender to police and prove his innocence.
The monk faces several charges. Gen Srivara was referring to an arrest warrant against the monk issued by the Sikhiu Provincial Court for alleged forest encroachment by the temple’s World Peace Valley Meditation Centre at Khao Yai National Park in Nakhon Ratchasima’s Pak Chong district.
The Loei Provincial Court has also approved a warrant for his arrest after a police probe found Wat Dhammakaya’s meditation facility in Loei’s Phu Rua encroached on a forest reserve.
According to Gen Srivara, Special Branch Division 4 have been assigned to look into the monk’s whereabouts.
Some rumours suggest Phra Dhammajayo has fled to Australia. However, despite followers at the temple yesterday (Nov 24) insisting that the monk is not on the run and is being treated for serious illness in the temple’s compound, speculation is still rife he might have fled overseas.
Ong-art Thamnitha, who represents Phra Dhammajayo’s disciples, said the abbot is still at the temple.
“He has no passport. And with all the surveillance, I don’t think he can slip through. The monk is ill and he is at the temple,” he said.
Mr Ong-art declined to say if disciples would form a human shield to protect the monk if the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) tried to make an arrest, saying if there was a shield it should be called a moral shield.
“It depends if there are provocations. Last time they treated this place like it was not a temple. The disciples were angered. So, don’t anger them,” he said.
Mr Ong-art said that when chaos erupted, it was the work of a third party.
However, Gen Srivara said authorities need to establish the monk’s whereabouts when they ask a court to approve a search warrant. As soon as his whereabouts is verified police will obtain a search warrant.
He said police do not mind if the temple arranges for the monk to hear the charges there as long as they do not try to stall the process. Bail is likely if there are no signs of him tampering with evidence.
The deputy police chief also said police had not received any request from the DSI which is expected to arrest the monk following the prosecution’s indictment decision.
The Office of the Attorney-General early this week decided to indict him and four others in connection with laundering money and receiving stolen property in connection with the multi-billion-baht Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative embezzlement scandal after five previous postponements.
He urged the monk’s followers not to obstruct authorities when they enforce the law or they will face legal action.
“I’d like to ask the disciples not to obstruct justice if police try to make an arrest,” he said.
“If they come to meditate [at the temple] during the arrest, be sure to meditate and not obstruct officials.”
He said National Police Chief Chakthip Chaijinda has made it clear that police will give the DSI full cooperation. But he said he has no details about the DSI’s plan.
DSI investigator Pakorn Sucheewakul said the statute of limitations in the money laundering case against the monk is 15 years.
Maj Gen Chayapol Chatchaidej, acting commander of the Special Branch Division 4, said authorities are coordinating with the temple to ensure the abbot stays there.
Initially a letter was sent to the monk asking him to meet police to face the charges but there was no reply, he said.
Col Kritsana Pattanacharoen, deputy police spokesman, also said police cannot confirm the monk’s whereabouts.
He said relevant authorities will assess the situation to determine if they should proceed with an arrest if the monk refuses to turn himself in.
The DSI made its first attempt to arrest the abbot at the temple in Pathum Thani’s Khlong Luang district on June 16 where he is thought to be holed up but failed when his followers gathered en masse and blocked authorities from entering.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon played down concerns about possible chaos if the DSI proceeded to arrest the monk, saying authorities were enforcing the law.
He said the monk faces charges and warrants have been issued for his arrest, so he is obliged to enter the justice process to prove his innocence against the allegations
According to Gen Prawit, Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya is in charge of the DSI and police have been asked to support the Justice Ministry’s decision.
The deputy prime minister said Phra Dhammajayo has not fled overseas.
It is believed temple security was tightened following the prosecutors’ move.
Vehicles passing through Gate 7 on the Bang Khan-Nong Sua road were thoroughly searched and media were not allowed inside. In front of Gate 1 on Liap Khlong Sam Rd, makeshift tents were installed for disciples to pray.
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