By PIYANUCH THAMNUKASETCHAI,
THE DEPARTMENT of Special Investigation (DSI) used a drone and a police chopper to survey routes in and around the Pathum Thani-based Dhammakaya Temple yesterday as part of a plan to arrest its controversial abbot Phra Dhammachayo, a DSI source said.
More than 2,200 police and |military personnel will be used to guard the temple’s 15 entrances |during an arrest operation, the source said.
The source said investigators were analysing money transac-|tions of the people who provided financial support to the temple to cover the cost of transport, meals, and around-the-clock security in order to propose impounding their assets.
The source said these people may be charged with assisting someone alleged to have committed an offence to avoid prosecution.
Justice Minister Paiboon Koomchaya revealed the DSI had established five steps leading to the abbot’s arrest, though the exact date of the arrest would be determined by the authorities so as to prevent an escalation of tensions.
It would send a letter to the Sangha Council in a bid to get senior monks involved in trying to resolve the issue, Paiboon said, adding that the case report would be concluded soon and submitted to the public prosecutor to decide whether to indict the monk.
Dhammakaya Temple disciples urged the DSI to postpone the abbot’s arrest pending the results of their request for the Appeals Court to revoke the May 18 arrest warrant for the abbot and having a neutral doctor examine the abbot, who the temple claims is ill.
In response, DSI chief Colonel Paisit Wongmuang affirmed the agency would proceed as per the warrant.
Speaking on behalf of the disciples, Ong-art Thamnitha told the press that the appeal by the temple’s lawyer to have the arrest warrant cancelled was ongoing so the DSI should postpone any action under the warrant. That would ensure |justice was served and no one was aggrieved, he said.
He also said police should hold off until the Medical Council of Thailand’s decision on whether to have a medical team examine the 72-year-old abbot. The abbot’s “illness” has been cited as the reason for him to not meet DSI officials at their head office to hear charges of money laundering and receiving stolen property.
Staff and police yesterday checked all vehicles going into the premises.
A lot of placards in support of Phra Dhammachayo were posted at the temple by disciples on Friday night. One read: “Luang Por is the leader of goodness. Hurting him is the equivalent of hurting Buddhism.” Another read: “We encourage DSI to provide justice to Luang Por.”
Within the temple’s Kaew Sarapatneuk Hall, some 5,000 |disciples meditated. Many said that they still had faith in the abbot.
Company executive Pornpen Taengcharoenpanich, 51, said: “I believe the abbot is innocent and there are unfair things going on here. To people who don’t know Dhammakaya, you don’t need to fear us. We are peaceful, polite and unarmed people who love doing merit, meditation, maintaining precepts and praying in accordance with Lord Buddha’s teachings.”
She insisted the monk had been ill for years but had forced himself to teach people so they could find happiness and peace.
A Suphan Buri-based merchant, Wattana Chandrakulsiri, 65, said she was worried about the monk’s illness, so she joined fellow |disciples to make merit for him. She was confident he was innocent.