Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Temple spokesman urges police to withdraw complaint

Dec 14. 2016
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By ANAN WICHITPRACHA,
PONGSATHAT RUJIPHUTTANYAPHAT
THE NATION

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ONGART THAMNITA, the spokesman for followers of Dhammakaya Temple, yesterday urged the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) to withdraw its police complaint against him and other temple adherents rather than “impose fear upon people”.

In the announcement via Facebook Live, Ongart said he had not intended to make public statements that incited disaffection in a manner likely to cause a disturbance, as specified by Section 116. He added that he was ready to prove his innocence in the judicial process. 

Ongart said his statement on Sunday, which precipitated the DSI complaint, simply conveyed facts to the media and stated principles to enable authorities to understand how temple supporters thought and felt so they could resolve the problem peacefully. 

He said the DSI should listen to public opinion about how the agency could improve rather than fight with people such as his group, which had expressed opinions and suggestions to the DSI. 

The temple’s founder and former abbot, Phra Dhammachayo, faces arrest warrants relating to the Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative embezzlement case and a separate allegation of land encroachment. 

The fugitive monk is believed to be at the Pathum Thani-based Dhammakaya Temple, while the DSI and police are planning an operation to arrest him. 

The DSI cancelled an operation that was scheduled for last Tuesday, which was backed by a warrant that expires tomorrow. It was aborted due to a “lack of preparedness”, authorities said, adding that a new search warrant was being sought to allow a continuous search for four days.

Dhammakaya Temple yesterday cleared containers and foundation pillars that had blocked the temple’s fourth gate and removed CCTV cameras from a bridge over a canal leading to the temple. Plastic net sheeting was still in place on the bridge, from where temple monks have been seen observing police checkpoints. 

Police had set up seven checkpoints around the temple to prevent the possibility of trouble caused by unidentified third parties, authorities said.

Meanwhile, the former deputy director-general for the Forestry Department and expert court witness on aerial photography, Withoon Chalaiyonnawin, has filed a libel complaint against Ongart at Pathum Thani’s Klong Luang Police Station. 

Previously Ongart had said that Withoon was an “unreliable witness” in the case against Phra Dhammachayo involving forest encroachment. 

Withoon said he had given his opinion in the land encroachment case in line with his professional expertise and that his status as a court expert was still valid. 

He added that he was in the process of appealing his recent dismissal from the Forestry Department, which he claimed stemmed from internal conflicts within the organisation.

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