Police, including officers from the Department of Special Investigation (DSI), yesterday focused their search for the 72-year-old monk on areas outside the sprawling Pathum Thani-based Dhammakaya Temple complex, which spans over 2,100 rai (336 hectares.
DSI deputy spokesman Worranan Srilum said a tip-off led officials to search an address in a housing estate close to the temple. However, instead of finding Dhammachayo, authorities found three Buddhist monks of foreign nationalities in the house who claimed to be taking part in religious training at the temple. The monks were later handed over to Immigration Police for further proceedings.
Inside the temple compound, officials from the Food and Drug Administration and forensic experts were accompanied by DSI authorities in examining the room said to be used by the fugitive monk during his supposed medical treatment, DSI deputy director general Suriya Singhakamol said.
Officials from the Energy Ministry examined large storage tanks of petrol estimated to exceed 100,000 litres in an area at the back of the temple, he said.
Inside Dhammachayo’s supposed treatment room, attention was on a sick bay containing a hyperbaric chamber.
Authorities found an order document and a usage manual for the hyperbaric chamber, which the temple said was bought from Yanhee Hospital by a follower of the monk who later donated it to the temple.
The hospital is known for performing cosmetic surgery but temple staff said the machine was used to treat the fugitive monk’s skin problems, and not for cosmetic purposes as speculated on the social media.
Dhammachayo, now honorary abbot of the temple, is wanted for alleged money laundering and accepting stolen goods in connection with an embezzlement case involving a key follower of the monk. His close disciple, former Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative chairman Supachai Srisupa-aksorn, is serving a 16-year jail term for embezzling billions of baht from members of the cooperative. Before his arrest, Supachai donated over Bt900 million to the monk.
Region 1 Police commander Pol Lt-General Chanthep Sesavej said yesterday that he was convinced Dhammachayo was still in hiding somewhere near the temple.
He said the number of officers dispatched to the temple to enforce the junta leader’s order declaring it a controlled area would be reduced to eight companies. However, he rejected calls by the temple’s staff and followers for the order to be lifted, saying it was needed to facilitate the hunt for Dhammachayo.
Phra Sanitwong Wuthiwangso, a spokesman for the temple, yesterday urged the National Council for Peace and Order to lift the latest order by General Prayut.
He said with the temple compound being declared a controlled area, many people living in the communities around the temple have been affected.
DSI officials yesterday started sealing off buildings and rooms that were already searched inside the temple with special adhesive tape to prevent possible interference.
Published : February 18, 2017
By : THE SUNDAY NATION