Move aims to stop abbot from fleeing country; 14 followers face legal action for obstructing monk's arrest.
PHRA DHAMMACHAYO, the controversial abbot of Dhammakaya Temple, has been officially blacklisted by the Immigration Bureau, effectively blocking him from leaving the country.
At least 14 people face legal action for trying to shield the abbot from authorities’ attempts to arrest him on Thursday.
“The Immigration Bureau has already blacklisted him [the abbot]. He won’t be able to travel out of the country,” Deputy national police commissioner Pol General Srivara Ransibrahmanakul said yesterday.
On Thursday, thousands of white-clad followers showed up at the Dhammakaya Temple in support of Phra Dhammachayo. Their sheer number foiled the operation to scour the expansive monastery and arrest its abbot.
The followers announced that Phra Dhammachayo should surrender to face charges of money laundering and accepting ill-gotten gains only after the country returns to full democracy. They made clear their stance even as officials were armed with a search warrant for the premises and an arrest warrant for Phra Dhammachayo.
The activities by many of these followers were seen as clear attempts to obstruct officials from doing their duty.
“The Department of Special Investigation [DSI] has already lodged complaints against several suspects and submitted still photos along with video recordings as evidence,” Srivara said yesterday.
These suspects will be charged with obstructing officials’ operation, assisting a suspect, and violating the Public Assembly Act.
Phra Dhammachayo, on his part, has been facing legal action in connection with the alleged embezzlement of billions of baht from the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative.
According to the DSI, evidence shows Phra Dhammachayo and his foundation allegedly received more than Bt1.4 billion in cheques from Supachai Srisupa-aksorn, a former chief of the cooperative, who is now serving a jail term in a related embezzlement case.
Criminal proceedings against Phra Dhammachayo remain valid, even though his followers have returned the money to the cooperative in the hope of bailing him out of trouble.
Lawyers for Phra Dhammachayo have claimed all along that he is innocent as he openly received financial donations. But the monk has not answered the DSI summons, claiming he is too ill to do so since the scandal broke out.
Justice Minister General Paiboon Koomchaya yesterday urged the public to help pressure Phra Dhammachayo to face the judicial process.
Fear of violence
He said while the deployment of soldiers and police could definitely bring Phra Dhammachayo out of the temple, the move might trigger violence.
“Our operation, therefore, also focuses on avoiding any clash,” he said in response to criticism about the failure of authorities to bring Phra Dhammachayo to justice.
Pol Colonel Piyapong Klinphan, a spokesman for the National Council for Peace and Order, said Thursday’s operation exposed the political affiliation of followers at Dhammakaya Temple.
“By saying Phra Dhammachayo’s surrender will take place only when democracy returns, they have shown where they stand politically,” he said.
He said Thursday’s operation also made it possible to have a clearer view of the expansive Dhammakaya Temple.
Piyapong said authorities had received words that many people from the Northeast and several monks from the South headed to Dhammakaya Temple, which sits in Pathum Thani province, earlier this week.
“We will look into how such a huge number of people gathered at the Dhammakaya Temple and how they behaved,” he said.
Piyapong revealed that officials had also investigated the flow of finances to Dhammakaya Temple.
“It’s strange that the temple also has a giant balloon and a drone. Of what use are such tools for true Dharma practice?” he asked.
Meanwhile, police from Pathum Thani’s Klong Luang Station yesterday confiscated two temple vehicles that blocked road traffic. They were parked between two canals near the temple.
Some vehicles such as backhoes were used to block the temple’s gates.