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Temple drama rolls on after talks falter

Jun 06. 2016
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THE Phra Dhammachayo controversy continues to drag on after a high-powered meeting yesterday faltered, with the next meeting set for June 14, the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) said.
Present at yesterday afternoon’s meeting at Wat Khian Khet were DSI officials, Pathum Thani chief monk Phra Thep Rattanasuthi and National Office of Buddhism officials. 
The DSI has summoned Phra Dhammachayo, abbot of the Pathum Thani-based Wat Phra Dhammakaya, to hear charges of money-laundering at its head office but he failed to show after the temple claimed he was seriously ill. Three have already heard the charges of money laundering and receiving ill-gotten wealth. 
The charges relate to a huge embezzlement scheme uncovered at the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative involving five suspects. Three have already admitted their guilt.
The DSI now has the option of concluding the case and forwarding it to public prosecutors.
The Pathum Thani chief monk insisted he was acting only as a coordinator for the talks because the case was not related to the monastic order.
He said information from his deputies’ May 26 visit to Wat Phra Dhammakaya indicated the abbot’s leg was swollen, but he did not know if the condition would have prevented the monk from walking.
Yesterday’s meeting was not attended by Wat Phra Dhammakaya representatives on the grounds that the temple has many groups of disciples. 
Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen lawyer Somsak Toraksa, in his capacity as the Pathum Thani chief monk’s adviser, said the talks had progressed by 95 per cent and stalled because of disagreements over certain terms. Participants agreed to formulate a memorandum for disciples’ consideration and the abbot’s final decision, he said. 
He said DSI deputy chief Somboon Sarasit agreed to coordinate with case investigators and the memorandum’s content would be revealed if the DSI and the abbot approved the move.
Conditions set
Prior to the meeting, Somsak said the temple stipulated two conditions including the abbot’s immediate release on bail and for doctors from Phra Mongkut Hospital to examine him.
Earlier yesterday, DSI chief Paisit Wongmuang said he and other DSI officials felt troubled by criticism that the agency had not proceeded to enforce the abbot’s arrest warrant because the failure to act per the arrest warrant could lead to people filing complaints against officers. 
Paisit said a monastic rule-related action is in the pipeline with the help of the Pathum Thani chief monk, while investigators had been sent to determine the exact location of Phra Dhammachayo in the vast temple compound. He said that confirmation would be used in a search warrant application. 
Meanwhile, supporters and followers of Wat Phra Dhammakaya have called for investigations to be launched against two academics accused of making negative remarks about Phra Dhammachayo. In Sa Kaew province, Panchit Wannacharoen and 15 other supporters of the embattled monk filed a complaint at the Wattana Nakhon Police Station against academic Somkiat Onwimon, claiming that Somkiat wrote posts on his Facebook page that tarnished the abbot’s image. 
Earlier yesterday morning at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus, Ong-art Thamnitta and Ai Petthong, representing a group of Wat Phra Dhammakaya followers, filed a complaint calling for the university’s president to launch an inquiry of Chulabhorn International College of Medicine lecturer Dr Mano Laohawanich.
They alleged Mano might have breached university regulations after accusing Phra Dhammachayo of inappropriate behaviour including non-Buddhist practices. 
In another development, national police chief General Chakthip Chaijinda said he had urged police and local administrators to watch out for third parties trying to create chaos at the temple and to screen entry and exit to the compound.

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