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Police await monk’s extradition, train sights on five who helped him flee

Jun 06. 2018
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By THE NATION

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POLICE are seeking five people suspected of helping a senior monk flee the country.

Two immigration police officers suspected of facilitating the escape also are being investigated, a police source said yesterday.

Investigators in the border province of Nakhon Phanom have requested a court to issue arrest warrants for the five suspects – three of them Thais and two Laos nationals, according to the source. The suspects have reportedly crossed the border into Laos.

Also, the Immigration Bureau has set up a committee to investigate two of its officers – an inspector and a junior officer – for suspected involvement in the monk’s escape plot, the source said.

They are thought to have helped Phra Phrommedhi, former assistant abbot of Samphanthawongsaram Temple, cross the border illegally from Nakhon Phanom into Laos, before his flight to Germany. The monk is wanted by Thai police for allegedly laundering millions of embezzled state funds.

The fugitive monk is now known by his lay name Phra Chamnong Iam-intra, following a recent royal command removing his monastic rank and those of six other high-ranking monks implicated in the embezzlement scandal running into more than Bt350 million.

National police chief Pol General Chakthip Chaijinda arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport yesterday afternoon, after flying back from his mission to collect the monk in Frankfurt.

He left shortly after his arrival, avoiding the large media presence at the airport.

Chakthip and his small team of police officers had gone to Germany in the hope of securing custody of the fugitive monk, who was detained by German authorities after his arrival in Frankfurt. However, German authorities declined to hand the monk over to the Thai police team, amid media reports that he had sought asylum in Germany.

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who oversees the police force, said yesterday that he was informed Chakthip would remain in Germany until the monk was handed over to him. 

“He is waiting to escort Phra Phrommedhi back to Thailand,” General Prawit said yesterday.

On Tuesday, Prawit said he expected German authorities to make a decision within three days on whether to hand over the monk. He also dismissed media reports that the monk had applied for asylum.

Meanwhile, other senior monks arrested in connection with the scandal have started to adapt to their new surroundings at the Bangkok Remand Prison, Corrections Department director-general Naras Savestanan said yesterday.

The monks had maintained much of their monastic routine while in detention, including foregoing food after midday and praying daily, which was allowed by the prison, the official said. Physical check-ups found the monks had no illnesses, he added.

Phra Buddha Isara, another senior monk arrested separately on charges of criminal organisation and unauthorised use of a royal name, has received treatment for back pain while in detention at the prison, Naras said yesterday.

The monk will today undergo an endoscopy at the prison hospital to examine bleeding in his digestive tract, according to the official.

Buddha Isara is now known by his layman’s name, Suwit Thongprasert, after he was disrobed following his recent dramatic arrest at his temple in Nakhon Pathom. Many of his followers resumed visiting him yesterday after the former monk requested no visits for a week.

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