By The Nation
PHRA Phrommedhi, a former high-ranking monk who fled Thailand over money-laundering allegations, is being held in custody in Germany after failing to pass an airport immigration check.
German officials arrested the monk, who lost all of his monastic ranks late last month, in response to an arrest warrant issued by Thailand.
Thai police had informed many foreign countries via Interpol that Phra Phrommedhi (now known only as Chamnong Dhammajari) was a wanted fugitive.
He and several other high-ranking monks are accused of embezzling state funds for temples.
Five monks were arrested on May 24. Phra Prommedhi, then assistant abbot of Samphanthawongsaram Temple, and then-Sa Ket Temple’s abbot Phra Phromsitti, however, managed to elude arrests that day.
Due to the serious charges against them, they lost their place on the Sangha Supreme Council (SSC), Thailand’s highest body for monastic affairs.
Phra Phromsitti (now known only as Thongchai Sukkho) surrendered last week.
An informed source said Phra Phrommedhi left his Bangkok-based temple for the border province of Nakhon Phanom.
“He then headed towards Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. From the Ho Chi Minh airport, he boarded a flight to Qatar. And from Qatar, he tried to go to Germany,” the source said.
According to a police source, Chamnong Dhammajari (formerly Phra Phrommedhi) holds a state-official passport that is valid until 2020.
“It was issued back in 2015 because Phra Phrommedhi received an invitation to visit a branch of the Dhammakaya Temple in Germany,” the source said. It was reported that National Police Commissioner Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda, several senior policemen and public prosecutors had already boarded flights from Thailand to interrogate and accept the hand-over of Chamnong Dhammajari.
Bangkok Remand Prison chief Krit Krasaetip said the former monks in the embezzlement scandals had already adjusted themselves to a life behind bars.
“They are already acting like other inmates, except that they do not have dinner,” he said. Buddhist monks do not eat after midday.
Regarding the former Phra Buddha Isara (now known only as Suwit Thongprasert), Krit said he was undergoing physical therapy to treat back pain from herniated disc. “We also have provided him with a wheelchair and walking-support,” Krit said.
Suwit faces charges of using without permission royal initials to make amulets, and of mobilising |demonstrators to assault and snatch away guns from two special branch police officers during an anti-government rally in 2014. At that time, he was a co-leader of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee that rallied against the Yingluck Shinawatra-led administration.