But Paiboon Says govt has received help from clergy.
PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha expressed concern yesterday that tough action against Phra Dhammachayo, the abbot of Dhammakaya Temple, who is facing money-laundering and related charges, could lead to deadly violence.
The premier was non-committal on the timeline to enforce the court-approved arrest warrant for the controversial monk since the government does not want to see the issue escalate into clashes between disciples and law enforcement.
The Department of Special Investigation (DSI) has also prepared personnel and equipment that it may need to arrest the abbot, in the event that he firmly refuses to surrender.
Barbed wire, after all, has already gone up at a key building in the Dhammakaya Temple in Pathum Thani province, as if to thwart any attempt by officials to stage a raid and make an arrest.
Meanwhile, interior minsiter Anupong Paochinda said the monk should hear the charges and fight his case in the court, as law enforcement authorities are following procedures to have a court trial.
However, the popular temple has a large number of disciples nationwide so the government has to handle this case with great care to avoid chaos.
Anupong said the belief among some followers that the monk is innocent could not end the legal proceedings in this criminal case.
However, efforts to bring the abbot to legal proceedings have now received good cooperation from some senior monks.
Phra Dhammachayo is facing charges of money-laundering and accepting ill-gotten gains over his alleged role in the big embezzlement at the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC).
Justice Minister General Paiboon Koomchaya said yesterday officials would proceed carefully and had already discussed the matter with senior monks in the country.
“We have received good cooperation,” he said about the recent discussions between the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) chief Paisit Wongmuang and Pathum Thani’s monastic chief.
The Criminal Court approved the warrant to arrest Phra Dhammachayo on May 18 after the monk has failed repeatedly to answer DSI summonses over the embezlement scandal.
Supachai Sriaupa-aksorn, the former president of the cooperative and a disciple of Dhammakaya Temple, was convicted of embezzling money from KCUC. He was found to have donated many hundreds of millions of baht to Phra Dhammachayo.
“We hope the followers of the abbot won’t resort to breaking laws or obstructing the operations by officials,” Paiboon said.
He noted that thousands of victims had lost all their money because of embezzlement at the KCUC.
“If we don’t nail down culprits first, victims won’t be able to get their money back. By laws, a final court ruling is needed before stolen assets can be given back to the original owners.
‘What about Klongchan victims?’
Followers of Phra Dhammchayo should have empathy for the KCUC victims, he said, and understand that the monk can defend himself in court.
Phra Maha Nopporn Poonyachayor, assistant director of corporate communications at Dhammakaya Temple, told a press conference yesterday he was worried about the use of force because a huge number of people were practising Dhamma inside the temple.
“We hope officials won’t try to use force in arresting the abbot,” he said.
This monk said he had heard from media that the DSI had already sought police backup and a helicopter in preparation for making the arrest.
National Police Commissioner Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda said police would deploy 600 policemen in support of the DSI operation.
“If necessary, I will approve the deployment,” he said.
Meanwhile, Phra Buddha Isara called on the monastic chief of Region 1 to remove Phra Dhammachayo from the helm of Dhammakaya Temple. “He has violated monastic laws and damaged Buddhism. He should be removed,” Buddha Isara, who was active in rallies two years ago, said.