By Anan Wijitpracha,
“We will ask for royal protection,” Ongart Thamnita said yesterday on behalf of the temple’s followers.
According to Ongart, the followers suspect that the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) and the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Suppression Division (NRECSD) are unfairly persecuting the temple and fugitive former abbot Phra Dhammachayo.
The monk is wanted on charges of money laundering in relation to the embezzlement of several billion baht from the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative. Since the scandal broke, followers of the temple have returned more than Bt1 billion to the cooperative, maintaining that Phra Dhammachayo and related monks received the money as donations without knowing it was related to fraud.
“In fact, the cooperative has sent us a thank-you letter. But now, donors who have raised the funds for the return of the money are charged with unauthorised solicitation of donations,” Ongart claimed.
He also claimed that the NRECSD had charged Phra Dhammachayo with forest encroachment and constructing structures over public waterways based on the opinion of an unreliable witness.
Ongart added that there was no sound reason to suspend the temple’s Dhammakaya Media Channel (DMC) satellite TV channel either.
“The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission ordered the suspension recently upon the request of the DSI without calling any hearing,” Ongart said. He insisted that DMC content was solely about praying, meditating and Dhamma.
Ongart spoke at a press conference, which was held amid reports that the DSI and police were preparing to deploy more than 3,000 officials in a raid on the Dhammakaya Temple to arrest Phra Dhammachayo.
Since being charged with money laundering, Phra Dhammachayo has not answered any of the summonses issued against him, citing poor health.
The court then approved an arrest warrant for him in May. However, because a huge number of his followers and his temple’s followers have stood by him, the arrest has yet to take place.