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DSI’s Grand Bargain

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A high profile case has captured much of Thailand as authorities and the massive Dhammakaya temple clash over a case against the temple’s abbot, Venerable Dhammajayo. Dhammakaya is Thailand’s largest Buddhist temple, and its abbot stands accused by the Thai Department of Special Investigation (DSI) of money laundering and receiving stolen money after he received donations that were later linked to an embezzlement scandal. The abbot admits receiving the donations but states he did not know the source, as he received them in the open public.

The accusations against Ven. Dhammajayo, also known as Phrathepyanmahamuni, started when the former chairman of Klongchan Credit Union Cooperative (KCUC) was alleged to have embezzled over 12 billion baht from the credit union, a small portion of that amount was traced to donations made to the temple by the former chairman in the form of checks. The rest of the allegedly embezzled funds were traced to checks issued to several other organizations, including other temples.
When the donations to the temple were found out to be linked to the embezzlement accusations, supporters set up an emergency fund to return the equivalent of the funds to the credit union. The credit union subsequently thanked the supporters and dropped all charges. DSI is still pursuing the abbot on criminal charges.

The case intensified when an arrest warrant was issued after the abbot failed to appear for a summons. The temple did, however, send representatives to request that the location of the meeting be moved to the temple’s medical ward due to complications from the abbot’s medical conditions.

Ven. Dhammajayo suffered severe dizziness trying to get up to meet investigators, and the lawyer requested another 30 minutes for him to appear. He later fainted and was unable to make an appearance, prompting DSI to start planning for his possible arrest. The temple responded by filing an appeals to get the arrest warrant rescinded, and by submitting a request by the Medical Council of Thailand to send a specialist to verify the abbot’s condition, as DSI has turned down all requests by the temple to send their own doctor to verify that the abbot is truly ill.

After negotiation, the temple agreed that the abbot would meet with DSI at Khlong Luang Police Station near the temple to hear charges, as doctors warned going to DSI’s office in Bangkok would put the ailing abbot at risk for a fatal pulmonary embolism.

Ven. Dhammajayo suffered severe dizziness trying to get up to meet investigators, and the lawyer requested another 30 minutes for him to appear. He later fainted and was unable to make an appearance, prompting DSI to start planning for his possible arrest.

As the case against Ven. Dhammajayo escalated, DSI held a series of meetings with the appearance of trying to resolve the matter peacefully. On June 2nd, 2016, DSI issued order 531/2559 which requested the the Ecclesiastical Governor of Pathum Thani, the National Office of Buddhism and the legal advisor to the Ecclesiastical Head, Dr. Somsak Toraksa, to meet to help resolve this case. They were ordered to form a committee and given the authority to coordinate the involved parties.

Are they pawns of DSI? L-R: Representative from the National Office of Buddhism; Mr. Somboon Sarasit (Deputy-Director of DSI); Ven. Phrathepratanasutee (Abbot of Wat Kian Khet and Ecclesiastical Head of Pathum Thani); Mr. Somsak Toraksa (advisor to the Ecclesiastical Head)  http://thaisarn.net/single.php?news=57601d370ad1d3f22d2b853a

Are they pawns of DSI? L-R: Representative from the National Office of Buddhism; Mr. Somboon Sarasit (Deputy-Director of DSI); Ven. Phrathepratanasutee (Abbot of Wat Kian Khet and Ecclesiastical Head of Pathum Thani); Mr. Somsak Toraksa (advisor to the Ecclesiastical Head)
http://thaisarn.net/single.php?news=57601d370ad1d3f22d2b853a

The committee met twice, with another meeting set for June 14, 2016. The result was what seemed to be a grand bargain. The deal was that physicians from a government hospital would examine the abbot. If his illnesses are affirmed, DSI would read the abbot his charges at the temple as previously requested and grant him bail. Documents were signed by DSI officials regarding the deal.

However, DSI instead submitted the charges on June 13th, before the next meeting, stating that such negotiations were just an administrative measure. The action by DSI caught everyone by surprise and led to a growing distrust of this department of the Ministry of Justice. Many questioned their tactic and wondered if DSI were using the members of this committee as pawns. Were they merely trying to present the image of impartiality to the public?

Led by monks from Wat Phra Dhammakaya, DSI officers walks through  http://www.matichon.co.th/news/176574

Led by monks from Wat Phra Dhammakaya, DSI officers walks through
http://www.matichon.co.th/news/176574

Followers of Venerable Dhammajayo have made demands for a fair trial in the ongoing case against the abbot of Wat Phra Dhammakaya. Devotees of the monk agree he should turn himself in so that the case can continue, but only under fair legal circumstances. Namely, when full democracy is returned to Thailand.
The basis of these demands is that the judicial process cannot proceed fairly and impartially with proper adherence to the judicial rights of the defendant without a free democracy. DSI has 15 years to pursue the legal charges against Venerable Dhammajayo and the current Thai government has stated they will return Thailand to democracy shortly. Supporters believe the current judicial system will not give the abbot a fair trial.

An example the temple cites for this is the case of Buddha Isara of Wat O-­noi, another controversial monk who is facing charges from 2014 for leading blockades to shut down Bangkok and blocking voting booths. Despite an arrest warrant being issued for the incendiary monk, there has been no progress in his charges under the current military government.
The current military government of Thailand took control in 2014 following a coup that ousted then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Elections were previously due in the fall of 2014 but none have taken place. The current Prime Minister cites that the country is not ready for an election and a new charter to return the country to democracy must be approved before any elections are to take place. Unless the latest charter is approved, a new charter will have to be rewritten, thus putting elections out further than what the Prime Minister had promised when he first took power. In the days leading up to the referendum, the Prime Minister has prohibited any open discussion about the charter and its contents.

The current military government of Thailand took control in 2014 following a coup that ousted then Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Elections were previously due in the fall of 2014 but none have taken place. The current Prime Minister cites that the country is not ready for an election and a new charter to return the country to democracy must be approved before any elections are to take place. Unless the latest charter is approved, a new charter will have to be rewritten, thus putting elections out further than what the Prime Minister had promised when he first took power. In the days leading up to the referendum, the Prime Minister has prohibited any open discussion about the charter and its contents.

Jennifer KitilDSI’s Grand Bargain

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