Meeting today to consider action after Phra Dhammachayo fails to turn himself in before the deadline.
THE DEPARTMENT of Special Investigation (DSI) will meet today to decide on its next course of action after Phra Dhammachayo failed to report himself to hear money-laundering and related charges against him before yesterday’s deadline.
The DSI and public prosecutors plan to seek a court-issued search warrant today for the temple’s vast compound, senior prosecutor Kachornsak Putthanupap said.
“We already have an arrest warrant [for Phra Dhammachayo] and will meet to discuss the arrest,” he said.
The prosecutor said that under the law, a temple was private property and authorities needed a search warrant to enter the premises. He said the authorities would deal with this case “as gently as possible in order to prevent possible violence”.
“There are many monks and their followers in the temple. We will use a method that will not lead to violence,” he added.
Devotees of Dhammakaya Temple near Bangkok said in a statement that the abbot could not see DSI officials after being struck down by a sudden illness.
The DSI said the monk needed to go to nearby Thammasat University Hospital if he were sick. However, Phra Dhammachayo, who is facing criminal charges of conspiring to launder money and receiving ill-gotten gains, stayed inside the temple until the 4.30pm DSI deadline expired.
Prior to the deadline, more than 100 monks and devotees of Dhammakaya Temple went to Klong Luang Police Station in Pathum Thani province in the early afternoon, as DSI officials waited for the abbot to hear the charges. Samphun Sermcheep, the temple’s lawyer, said the abbot would show up at around 2.30pm to hear the charges and seek a temporary release on a Bt5-million bail set by the DSI. However, he failed to report himself. The temple spokesperson said the abbot fell sick suddenly, suffering from dizziness and fainting while being moved from the temple clinic to an ambulance.
Kachornsak said authorities had treated the abbot with the highest respect.
According to the prosecutor, investigators had three medical doctors from the Police Hospital ready to examine Phra Dhammachayo. Because he did not go to Thammasat University Hospital as suggested, the authorities would today seek a court order to visit the temple and take the abbot into custody, Kachornsak said.
He said the process of hearing charges would not take a long time and there would be no chaos since no one wanted to see violence or the obstruction of the justice system. But if a chaotic situation developed, authorities could oppose a temporary release for the monk and bail could be rejected.
According to the law, other people, including lawyers, could not hear charges on behalf of the accused, he said. Asked why officials had not entered the temple yesterday given Klong Luang Police Station’s close proximity to the temple, Kachornsak said the authorities would need a separate court order to do that and it would be sought after the abbot failed to show up to hear the charges.
At 3.50pm yesterday, a doctor who had treated Phra Dhammachayo told the DSI that the abbot would not go to the hospital suggested by the agency.
The meeting is slated to start at 10am, he said, adding that no armoured vehicles |or helicopters would be used in the operation to take the abbot into custody as speculated. Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the abbot could hear the DSI charges without being disrobed.